Niche versus mass market: big just isn’t better at the cinema

Chris Murray laments the demise of independent cinemas and the rise of generic shopping centre multiplexes with their get ‘em in, bang ‘em out culture.

Punters visit the cinema for an exciting communal experience, not the ease of parking.
As the multiplex struggles to keep the candy bar traffic flowing, automated cogs pump out digital images and the passionate few who strive to make their independent exhibition houses a cultural beacon (The Ritz, The Astor, Chauvel and so on) face impending doom. It’s an education problem, to be honest.
Kids these days have no idea what it means to sit in a cinema where the environment is part of the experience. Moviegoers of past generations were spoilt and didn’t know it. They had choice with unique cinemas specialising in various genres and programming. Today it’s just a shopping mall with seemingly no celebratory effort. Get ‘em in and bang ‘em out.

They don’t even bother to use curtains anymore. ‘Who cares, we’ve got their money and they will take what they’re given.’

Franchised exhibition, as a creative business, is lacking the gusto and inventive passion that smaller independent venues offer. As a result they’re all clambering for the next big thing to keep punters from illegally downloading or just waiting a few months for the DVD. The small guys have known and acted on this all along ironically due to the back-room blanket deals that have shut out mainstream product from independents for decades.

Much like how the music industry sucked on a shotgun, it’s about freedom of choice, a passionate delivery and getting people excited.

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of having one building with 20 screens, have 20 buildings with two screens scattered across town? Spread ‘em out, show different things, have each venue exude different atmospheres and attract likeminded audiences.
Don’t for a second tell me there’s not enough product.

That’s like saying there’s not enough bands for numerous live venues. CD sales are down, record labels are failing miserably, but kids are still out every night watching their favourite bands.

If people are downloading films, it means they want to watch them, right? So why don’t we take the effort to make that experience affordable, irreplaceable and somewhat magical once more.

Chris Murray is the creative director of Popcorn Taxi.


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