I had thought that the demise of Debenhams – entirely self-inflicted but precipitated by the COVID catalyst – would rest at the pinnacle of premier-league self-pity.
And then I read about Cineworld who are temporarily battening down the hatches, ostensibly owing to further delays to the release of Bond 25, No Time to Die. Now, the ludicrously shambolic response to COVID has scuppered many an enterprise. But cinemas do not come close to skipping onto that blame bandwagon.
Some out-and-out charlatans in cinematic retail have even been clamouring for a Government bailout. Next, we will be seeing pimps, paedophiles, and safe-crackers lining up for a shovel-load of gratis geld. Not a shard or ignominy, and even less social conscience.
All this means that in the midst of a pandemic, the public will not travel far and wide to be scrunched up together in an enclosed space for 3 hours, after which they will then travel back to their locality. Instead, they will be viewing at home, or in their bubbles, and streaming entertainment, safe from infection. That all sounds like Government policy, and now indeed, the law.
And those subscriptions per month will cost the price of admission for one to whatever flick would otherwise be airing. And the popcorn purchased from the supermarket will be at one-seventh of the cinema price, the soft drinks at one-quarter of the cinema price.
Don’t even start to pull my chain on austerity nachos and congealed bottle-squeezed cheese, served on the prison-issue trays.
Yes, there’s mark-up, and there’s exaction. The riposte up to this point from the smug cinema overlords has always been, ‘then don’t pay it’, because enough brow-beaten and harassed parents have been corralled into stumping up, or have adjudged a lighter wallet as a quid pro quo for a quiet life.
Since the year dot, they have been remorselessly caning parental captive audiences and revelling in it, as have the incorrigibly apathetic staff, who will merrily trouser a wage at your not inconsiderable expense while frisking you at the door like some Stasi Sergeant for an errant packet of wine gums.
Apparently for the ‘price-conscious‘ customer, there are a number of meal deals or combos, which will allow you to save £1.20 on your £70 bill for a family of four to see Pixar’s latest largesse.
Yeah, thanks for that. When they say ‘price-conscious‘, they mean that they’ve had to put something out there as a sweetener for all anybody who has the temerity to query a hustle. It’s an old psychological standby that customers will give an inordinate amount of weight to a perceived bargain, even if it’s in the face of a shameless shake-down. The first whiff of a reduction, or heaven forfend a freebie, and logic gets tossed to the wind. It’s a variant of ‘charm pricing’, the most well-known being the employment of the ‘left digit effect’; for example, reducing a £10 purchase to £9.99 so that the brain registers the price at £9.
Most just shrug their shoulders and pay up, such is the institutionalised status of clipping in cinematic retail.
Now that domestic blackmail upon which cinema dons have forever relied has been trumped by larger beasts, the studios. If the blockbusters don’t show, the punters won’t go
For these charlatans, it is precisely the time to die. Cinemas have likely had their day, yet they might just have just squeaked through the corona crisis had an increasingly squeezed public not already started to vote with their feet at the prospect of shelling out bucketloads on a manifestly average experience that coincided with mortgage angst.
Times are changed, and we too are changed within them. They have however continued to crank out their obscenely priced offerings without appearing to realise that the consumption of entertainment has long since been revolutionised. It is all very Kodak.
Yes, the cinema used to be ‘an experience’, but now that experience is crap, and it costs the earth.
Cinemas may well survive to a degree, but there will come a time when a visit to one will feel quaint – a throwback to times past. It would have been nice, had they embraced change for the right reasons. But now their hand has been forced. Let’s hope that they start to embrace integrity too.
If they don’t, it’s over – and that should be nacho concern.