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5 April, 2006

Selling from the mountain

I've been to the Dukes cinema five times in the last fortnight.  On each of four occasions, as soon as everyone had taken their seats, the auditorium doors closed, the lights dimmed, and the film began immediately.  One was different.

Yesterday evening, I saw 'Brokeback Mountain' (which was excellent). The lights dimmed as usual, but instead of the standard censors' certificate then the film, the first thing on the screen was an advert for adverts (literally), then a car ad. Then a perfume ad. Then at least five more (two for an entry-level ISP and ~3 others I've successfully blotted from my memory). Then an advert for trailers, even though the Dukes doesn't show trailers. Then a "piracy's bad, m'kay?" advert. Then the film certificate and film itself.

Yes, I realise this is absolutely routine in 'mainstream' (I don't mean that as a criticism) cinemas, but it's unusual at The Dukes, Lancaster's, er, 'non-mainstream' cinema. It was plainly imposed by the distributor, not the venue's decision; the Dukes rented an entire package and set of conditions, not just a film: "we'll let you show our film if you boost the commercialism and assert our anti-piracy message". I presume the ad revenue went to the distributor too, not to the cinema.

In fact, I strongly suspect that being forced to show adverts decreased the cinema's income, as the film had to be shown especially early in order to fit in the 134-min film and extras before ~20:10, leaving time to set up for the next film at 20:30. I personally know that several people who would have attended a ~18:00 start couldn't make it from work for the 17:45 start – that's lost ticket sales.

I don't really know what I'm saying here, beyond merely observing the contrast between common practice in mass-market 'Hollywood' film distribution and the less interventionist approach of non-mainstream film distributors. I certainly know which I prefer. As that anti-piracy advert said, cinema is all about the experience*, so back off, Entertainment Film Distributors Ltd., and let the cinema define its own atmosphere.

*: Defined as the communal experience of sharing the moment with a crowd. Needless to say, I disagree.

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