Monday, 23 March 2009

Some things never change...

I've never been much of a cinema-goer, not even as a kid in the days before home video. One of the main reasons for this was the vast majority of cinemas were real 'flea-pits' and my local cinema - the only one for miles and now long since demolished - was a particularly nasty example of this. Expensive, uncomfortable and downright filthy.

The staff were rude, unhelpful and on one occasion, frighteningly aggressive after my friend got stuck in the toilet when the door bolt jammed. Naturally we got the blame for this instead of the lack of cleaning and maintenance which was almost certainly the real cause. We were frog-marched across the foyer to the front doors and physically pushed out onto the street.

As you would expect my parents were horrified and immediately complained first to the manager, then to the head office and on both occasions were simply told not to come back if they didn't like it.

Cinemas could get away with this sort of behaviour then because there were no alternatives, it was - as the saying goes - "The Only Game in Town".

As you would expect, this was the last time I visited a cinema until I started dating many years later and I never visited that particular one ever again.

Fast-forward mumble-mumble years and despite the alleged competition from 'home video' little if anything seems to have changed. The majority of cinemas are still expensive, uncomfortable and downright filthy. The staff are still treating their customers like something a dairy farmer might have stepped in as the following story from the BBC clearly shows - Police threat in cinema sweet row.

This is not the first time staff employed by this particular cinema chain have been accused 'heavy-handedness'. A brief trawl through an online newspaper archive turned up a catalogue of complaints ranging from bullying and threatening behaviour to assault and theft of a mobile phone belonging to a 12 year old girl which was apparently "mislaid" after being "confiscated" by cinema staff.

By comparison our little Silver Screen down by the Market Square is in a class of it's own. The seats may be no more comfortable than anywhere else but they are certainly no worse, it's reasonably priced and it is clean. You don't need to have a bath afterwards or even wipe your feet on the way out. But far, far more important is the attitude of the staff. Friendly, helpful and polite - even when they have to deal with what could be described as 'youthful exuberance'.

Perhaps it is time large cinema chains like Cineworld went the same way as travelling circuses. It's certainly time local councils took a closer look at how these premises are being run before granting and/or renewing their licenses.

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