Last night, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I went to one of the local cinemas to watch Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (part 2). We had the choice of three venues in our little town; one an Edwardian cinema with two screens; another which is currently a theatre but for the first twenty years of its life was a cinema (it had the screen reinstated some fifty years later) and the other which started its life as a theatre before becoming a ball room, a storage space and finally a cinema!
So are the inhabitants of my home town, especially when the three venues are all showing the same film! Two ‘cinemas’ are currently showing the film in 3D whilst the third is showing it in 2D. This of course means you have to make sure you have your 3D glasses with you in case you have ended up in the 3D showing. I doubt it would look good without them! Mind you, I think you would get some odd looks in the 2D showing if you were wearing your 3D glasses!
We chose the Edwardian building. Not because it was Edwardian, but because there is a lot more space between the rows of seats making it far more comfortable for someone my height. Two weeks ago we went to the cinema which is really a theatre but started as a cinema – sorry, trying to confuse you again – to see a play not a film (keep up at the back there!) and I found myself incredibly cramped. Admittedly the seats there are a lot more comfortable than the other venues, but my knees were pushed up to my chin by the seats in front!
We hadn’t booked tickets to see the film last night, but turned up early to ensure we would get in. Between the three venues there are approximately 1300 seats so we didn’t really think we would have a great problem.
The seating arrangement at the Edwardian cinema is ‘first come first served’ – there are no reserved seats – sit wherever you like. There are 580 seats in that cinema (no, I didn’t sit there and count them all!). We followed three young lads into the auditorium which obviously reduced our choice a little, well, by three. Naturally we hoped for couple of vacant seats towards the centre about half way back as these would be most preferable. What we were presented with was 577 empty seats!
Apart from the three lads, no one else had yet turned up!
We had the choice of all the seats in the centre half way back because the lads chose seats towards the rear. Faced with such a choice could have been counter productive, but we selected our seats fairly instantly and settled back listening to the music being played ahead of the commercials ahead of the main feature!
Being there so early, and in what we considered to be prime seats, gave us the chance to watch, occasionally with some amusement, everyone else choose their seats. People would enter the auditorium, stride down the aisle to approximately half way (where we were already encamped) and would scan the entire auditorium trying to locate the next best available seats.
There would be a lot of pointing and subsequent shaking of heads before they tested out the chosen seats. Some settled for a couple of minutes before looking round for better seats. Some settled, like us, for the duration.
Four more young lads chose their seats; they were four at the end of a row with the first chosen seat adjacent to the aisle. The first of the lads sat in the first seat (the one adjacent to the aisle) forcing the others to clamber over him to get to their seats. The second lad to take his seat sat in the second seat, which of course meant the third and fourth lads had to climb over both the first and second. Naturally the third lad forced the fourth to complete the assault course to get to his seat!
As the lights started to dim for the main feature, I noticed there were many empty seats in front of me, so I had a quick look round the auditorium to see how full it was towards the back.
There were barely 100 of the 580 seats taken!
Bearing in mind the much anticipated (and hyped) film had only been showing in our town for fours days prior to our visit, I was somewhat surprised to see such an empty house. I couldn’t help wondering whether it was apathy in our town towards our cinemas; apathy in our town towards Harry Potter or whether the appeal of Harry Potter, generally, was diminishing. I am 99.9% certain it was not the latter and am fairly convinced it is the former!
Whatever the reason, those there sat back and thoroughly enjoyed their evening. Someone even started to give the film a round of applause as the credits rolled at the end until they realised they were the only person doing so. Fortunately, we were at the 3D screening and the glasses worn were so large, the person doing the clapping was conveniently hidden and therefore completely unrecognisable!
Memo to the town’s entertainment chiefs – don’t put the same film on at all three venues at the same time – you are just scattering your audience and creating a feeling of emptiness in each venue. Surely it would be better to fill one venue than to spread the audience thinly across all three?
But what do I know, I was only a Theatre Manager for several years!! 😉