File 04 – Multiperplexed
Want to know what the worst, most hate-filled invention in history is? More nauseating than bagpipes, more infuriating than self-service checkouts even more terrifying than intercontinental ballistic missiles; the single worst idea ever to be dreamt up by the human mind is without question the multiplex.
My local monument to cinematic excess is, reportedly, the largest multiplex cinema in the entire southern hemisphere; it hosts twenty six (yes twenty six!) screens and can accommodate approximately four and a half billion gawping, giggling, popcorn-munching buffoons.
In order to maintain my irritating compulsion to actually go and watch a film projected on a screen larger than a tea-towel, I was forced to visit said multiplex just last night.
Upon entering this jumped-up, overblown, neon-lit, glorified fast-food restaurant; one is greeted by a vast and imposing atrium. It’s cleverly decorated in such as a way as to stimulate the senses and whet the appetite of all but the most jaded cinema-goer. A huge bank of crystal-clear HD plasma screens is flanked by larger-than-life shrines to the gods of celluloid comedy: Charles Chaplin and Kevin James.
After buying a ticket from one of the many helpful, polite and eminently knowledgeable members of staff, one is filtered through a complex maze of pushers, peddlers and vendors. After declining the tempting, but financially unfeasible, offers to purchase branded stationary, a leg massage, or ten-tons of delicious-looking heated grain, one begins the process of attempting to locate one’s seat.
After only ten or twelve minutes of searching, it’s been found! One can sit-back, relax, and enjoy the film; with only three or four more interruptions to the proceedings: to re-close the auditorium doors or politely ask the football team sat nearby to quieten their thoroughly coherent banter.
The trailers, which are normally a frivolous little highlight, have become a thing of colossal hate, coming as they do after about 35 minutes of mobile phone and car adverts. By the time they start I’m on the verge of tears, literally begging the for film to begin; the last bus leaves at midnight and the walk home is about 10 minutes too long to be considered comfortable.
Chances are I’ll also have to vacate my seat at some point during the proceedings to seek out a member of staff and politely ask them, through gritted teeth and floods of tears, to turn the still-shining house-lights down.
The dismal experience is in no way softened by the fact that my used cinema ticket now permits me to purchase two meals for the price of one at a local, Manhattan-themed café-bar between 4-6pm, Monday-Friday (excluding Wednesdays).
The whole sorry affair combines to foster an atmosphere completely unsuitable for consuming anything but the most brainless of movies. The cinema doesn’t respect its employees, the employees don’t respect the customers, the customers don’t respect anything and nobody respects the film.
Perhaps because of everything that is involved with a trip to the multiplex: the five-course meal, the spin-off toy line, the staggering financial cost; the actual viewing of the film becomes a secondary experience for many of the punters.
If so, this is quite easily remedied. Strip away all luxuries from the cinema, the snack bar, the plush seats, the ambient lighting and the other needless comforts. Force people to watch films projected onto the side of an old bed-sheet inside a disused warehouse or iron foundry. Make people sit on upturned buckets, or better yet just make them stand around in great groups staring at the ceilings in a confused sort of way. Their miserable shadows cast onto the cold, grey walls by harsh, unflattering fluorescent lights.
At the ideal cinema mobile phones, MP3 players, bags of crisps, noisy t-shirts, and amusing trainers would all be confiscated at the door. A painful and probing dental examination would be compulsory for anyone setting foot on the premises. You would be reminded of your duties towards your fellow movie-goers by way of a worryingly loud public announcement inserted into the feature at random intervals to keep even the most unruffled of customers on their toes: SILENCE, ENJOY THE MOVIE.
Take away every crumb of comfort, every tiny scrap of pleasure from the whole, sorry experience and we’ll quickly see who’s committed to the cause. The part-timers will be filtered out and we’ll be left with only the most dedicated of movie-lovers.
We can then stand around in self-satisfaction, basking ourselves in the warming glow of a job-well-done, probably wondering whether we’re actually enjoying the experience any more or less now that the nacho stall has been smashed to bits.
In the end it might not be any more enjoyable, but we don’t deserve better. Think of it as a penance, a ritualistic flagellation brought on by ourselves for the air-conditioned monster we’ve created, and the terrible way in which we’ve behaved. I hate multiplexes, I really do.