Opinion

Skyfail: How Event Cinemas kicked 700 people out of the Bond movie and threatened to have me arrested

skyfall posterIt’s fair to say, my trip to see Skyfall did not go entirely as planned.

I was, I must admit, slightly late seeing it. But $12.3m of weekend box office can’t be wrong, so Monday was the night. Or so I thought. Sadly, I’m afraid I can’t tell you how it ended, because my evening ended with some vigorous discussions about media law.

It didn’t start well.

Ten minutes in, a thick blue line appeared down the left hand side of the screen. And remained there for the next ten minutes or so.

Along with the 700 or so people in the cinema – it was close to the 800-or-so capacity of George Street’s screen 4 – I was playing the game of hoping that somebody else would be the one to get up and call the projectionist. Happily someone cracked, and they eventually sorted it out.

The audience breathed a sigh of relief and began to relax into the film.

Half an hour later, it got worse –  everything turned bright yellow. Either Bond had fallen victim to an evil plot to give the upper ranks of MI6 jaundice or the colour balance was seriously screwed.

Again, we played the Who’s Going To Tell The Projectionist? game.

And everybody held their nerve. It’s amazing what you can get used to. I’d say the yellow filter went on for about half an hour.

By now I was mentally composing a letter of complaint. It included drawing attention to the fact that the cinema really only has one job, and that’s to correctly project the movie that the good folk of MGM have just dropped $200m making. As far as I could tell, it was money well spent, even if we weren’t quite seeing it how director Sam Mendes intended.

But if the main weapon against pirates is the superior movie-going experience, this was not a classic case study.

But hey, I enjoyed watching Casino Royal on an economy class plane seatback on Friday night, so in comparison this was luxury. At least I didn’t have a large woman from Perth who looked suspiciously like Gina Rinehart kicking me in the back.

But then, the picture froze.

For a while the crowd – who up to this point had been commendably patient – remained silent.

But then the murmurs started.

skyfall chaosWhen the screen then went black, the muttering got louder. People were still reasonably patient though. As you’ll see from the photo I took, a few started checking phones, but most initially stayed put.

Gradually though, as the cinema remained in darkness with no word from the management, a few began to leave.

As I started to film the crowd (well, I am a journo and it was a public place), a member of staff began to speak from the aisle on the other side of the cinema. As you may make out from my poor quality iPhone footage below, he didn’t do too bad a job.

Although he forgot to apologise for the inconvenience, he did explain that they were trying to reboot the computer.

Perhaps less reassuringly, he confided : “We haven’t had this problem happen to us over the last…” several years, I mentally completed the sentence. Or perhaps months. “Um, days,” he added.

The crowd were pretty understanding though. There was even a smattering of applause.

As I stopped filming, I didn’t notice that he’d come up behind me. The end of the recording captures the words: “I’d appreciate it if you delete that because I will have you…”

The next word was “…arrested”.

Which perhaps in customer relations terms is not ideal. At this point, I was just another punter to him. I wasn’t, I think, the only one filming. But I was probably the person who did it the most openly.

(And I am a regular customer by the way – that particular outlet, at least a couple of times a month or the last six years. Mumbrella has also held a number of reader screenings there, although I fear I’m not keen to repeat that soon.)

It’s perhaps not an ideal conflict resolution technique  to open the conversation with a threat to arrest your customer who’s night has just been ruined by your crappy projector.

The conversation quickly moved on. I identified myself as a journalist, gave him my business card and said I’d been filming in a public place and wouldn’t delete it. He repeated his threat to have me arrested and said he’d be calling his lawyer.

I suggested he could call the manager as I’d be happy to talk to him. “I am the manager,” he insisted.

Which suggest he must be as much of a prodigy as the youthful Q in the movie.

He walked off.

Another member of the audience who’d been sitting nearby leaned over to say “Good on you.”

Then, happily, the movie restarted.

skyfail tweetSadly the film was still a study in yellow. But everyone stuck with it. Until it stopped again.

This time, he was back with another announcement – the screening was off. Everyone was going to get one free ticket each to come back another time. He was somewhat drowned out by the calls of “Gold Class, Gold Class.”

skyfail tweet 2

social media skyfail

Disappointed fans took to social media

“Hashtag Skyfail,” added a socially media savvy woman nearby.

He was waiting at the bottom of the stairs as I left. His name badge said Mitchell.

Again perhaps misunderstanding the complexities of media law a tad, he wanted to know if I’d filmed him on my company phone or personal phone. “If I call your number on your card, that’s the number?”

“Yes.”

“Well anyway, I don’t want anything to do with you. You’re very rude towards me.”

“Why am I being rude? I’m trying to be reasonable.”

“It’s my own life and I can do what I like with it.”

“You’re on duty and you’re acting in a public place.”

“I’d like you to leave now. My lawyer is going to be in touch with you.”

At that point a colleague of his joined the debate.

“I have a degree in media,” she informed me. Journalists are not allowed to film anybody without signed consent forms she (wrongly) told me.

“You’ve been badly let down on your degree if you think that,” I (a tad provocatively) told her. It’s a common misunderstanding in many countries ,including Australia, that have a free press:

As it happens, an incident involving Nick Holmes a Court was one of the first stories Mumbrella covered when we launched four years ago.

She switched tack, mentioning the police.

“Are they on the way?” I asked. “If so, I’m happy to wait to sort this out, otherwise, I’d like to go. What would you like me to do?”

“You do whatever you like.”

“Have the police been called?

“Absolutely.”

“You’ve called them?”

“Absolutely, as far as I know.”

I didn’t believe her, so I decided to call it a night and left.

There was a small postscript.

When I got home, Event Cinemas had already sent me a customer satisfaction survey. I had fun filling it in.

event cinemas satisfaction

How was your Monday night?

Tim Burrowes

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