Commenting on the critics with Simon Columb…
Vanessa Thorpe, for The Guardian, writes today (Sunday, March 4th) about a change to what cinemas show:
“Tomorrow, the Royal Opera House will release its new feature film, Madam Butterfly 3D, and the team behind the production argue it is not just a cheaper option for opera fans, but also a good way to be introduced to the form.
“‘This development in cinemas can only be a good thing,’ said cellist Julian Lloyd Webber this weekend. Although an evangelist for live music, he believes that the opportunity to see top-quality classical music, opera and ballet locally is opening up the art forms, with younger audiences drawn in by the lower prices.
“‘It’s very hard for people to see these things in person, and they sell out very quickly, too,’ he said. ‘I think it is a particularly good thing for the regions, which can be even more cut off.'”
As an art teacher who appreciates the diverse range of art forms available, I would never see this as a problem in cinemas. In fact, it is one way that “smaller, independent” cinemas can make some extra money rather than taking the risk on a mid-reviewed film.
The Picturehouse chain are great at utilising their screens for multiple artistic ventures. The recent Leonardo da Vinci exhibition “Painter at the Court of Milan” at The National Gallery was shown at Picturehouse Cinemas, whilst I can vividly recall the multiple advertisements for The National Theatre’s Phedre starring Helen Mirren and Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein over the last few years. Opera and ballet are experiences that many people would be keen to view if they don’t have easy access to an opera house.
I think this type of change may be what cinema could become; rather than exclusively screening films, cinemas may become a central hub for art as a whole. The Hackney Picturehouse and BFI Southbank, for example, additionally have art galleries on their premises, with a high-standard of food and drink available. The dwindling sales at HMV – the only nationwide, entertainment-specialist retailer – may mean that they move from the high street and into cinema buildings. HMV have already joined up with Curzon cinemas in Wimbledon for a joint cinema-and-store.
We need to see chain cinemas in the UK – Odeon, Cineworld, VUE – changing how they present themselves. Rather than ‘cheap’ (in terms of product, not in terms of cost) screenings whereby you pop in, buy a ticket, buy some messy food, watch the film and then leave as fast as possible – it should be a journey to appreciate art in the local community. For parents to send their teenagers off to watch the latest action-film, whilst they can watch an opera, ballet, play or art screening – before meeting up afterwards to get something to eat in a relaxed environment and then leave, possibly with a CD soundtrack to listen to on the journey home. This set-up could be reproduced nationwide and indeed, the Picturehouse chain – akin to the Alamo Drafthouse in the USA – has opened more sites in the last couple of years, showing that even during this financial climate, it is successful.
Cinema needs to change, but maybe 3D and IMAX is not the way to go. The entire experience of visiting a cinema cannot be reproduced at home, so it is this that needs to be championed.