Wednesday, February 17, 2016


You finally settle into your cinema seat. Waiting for the lights to dim. Trying not to think about how soiled the chair is.

Sitting down feels like a special treat. You had to kill 45 minutes, because there wasn't a session of the film when you arrived.

You look around and see there's popcorn on the floor, and what looks like the remnants of a slowly melting ice cream. Delightful.

As the previews and advertising start to play, you realise that there is a large mark on the big screen. Sigh. You'll have to ignore it.

25 minutes of commercials later, the movie finally starts.

As the final credits start to roll, two hours later, you shrug. It was OK. Not a great film, but OK.

And for this thoroughly average experience, you paid $25 for your cinema ticket, plus $13.50 for your medium popcorn and drink.

Yes, I'm not exaggerating. For one person in Sydney, you're out almost forty dollars for a trip to the movies.


I would be irritated about the mediocre multiplex cinema experience, if not for the fact that I'm trapped in groundhog day; ceaselessly repeating myself. As far back as 2012, I wrote:

'I'll cut through the rhetoric for you. The (cinema) exhibitors want things to stay the same, where they have a captive audience, can charge what they want and raise prices with impunity. But the world has changed. The internet exists. Piracy exists. The exhibitors want to pretend that the world is still flat.'

And I've said it over, and over, and over again.

Yet, still, the indifferent movie theatre experience exists. So, since I can't seem to effect an appropriate response, perhaps Batman-revamping, filmmaking icon Christopher Nolan can influence the discourse:

'Cinema attendance is relatively stable but it’s not standing up the way it used to....the idea it’s dying as an experience or undervalued by younger cinemagoers is complete bollocks. But the experience has to be great or, of course, people won’t come.'

Or, to paraphrase, the exhibitors lack of effort to enhance the theatrical experience, is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, risk to the cinema industry.

Cinema has to feel like far more than just a giant television, to survive. Instead, potential audiences are being dissuaded, by the lackadaisical apathy of the very film exhibitors who are supposed to be focused on attracting patrons.

Most bemusingly ironic of all, film exhibitors then have the unmitigated gall to complain about piracy. Meanwhile, they vigorously stamp out attempts by filmmakers to shorten the release windows in cinemas, to get the films on other paid viewing mediums (e.g. VOD, Blu Ray) faster.

The whole mess is akin to the taxi industry.

For years, a person catching a taxi, anywhere, could later regale you with stories of lost drivers, overcharging, disregarded bookings, terrible manners, bad service, and worse odours.

But what other choice did we have?

Until one day, thoroughly brow beaten by our contemptuous taxi masters, a white knight drove gracefully into our lives.

Our prince charming.


A friendly mobile app that allows you to track your driver. An estimator to give you a correct (and often cheaper) price on the trip. Direct payment via credit card, to save you cash and transaction fees. Driver ratings. Passenger ratings.

A better way to ride.

And the taxi industry HATES them.

Respond to this new challenger by improving the taxi business model and service standards?

Not a chance!

Instead, taxi workers use members of state parliament to threaten legislative blockage unless government regulators "crack down" on Uber.

Or worse. Off-duty taxi drivers recently booked an Uber, then beat the driver and severely damaged their car. And what did the off-duty taxi folk yell as they administered the beating?

"F*** Uber, you are taking away our business."

"Taking" is the spurious word in that accusation. The taxi industry have had, literally, decades to create a more satisfying experience for customers. Uber have done it in five years. Who's fault is it that taxi services did not make use of their first mover advantage?

After all, if you build it, or at least build it better, they will come.

But how can this still be revelatory?

If a sandpit is clean and well-stocked with sand, a three year old will play in it.

If the same pit is full of weeds and broken glass, they won't.

The whole issue is so simple, the discussion seems almost like satire.

But it's most definitely not.

Kodak shelved the first digital camera, then ultimately went bankrupt because of it. The music industry lost its foothold to Napster, and still hasn't fully recovered. Uber is heavily disrupting the taxi industry, leading to actual violence.

This isn't a rhetorical discussion. We're talking about the future health of the film industry.

Something has to change. Soon.

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