Archive for the ‘Cinema Related’ Category


I can’t watch Star Wars anymore. I do not like it. That is a massive admission for me. As a cinema manager, film maker and a film lecturer I am often asked why I like film so much, and that wonderful trilogy was always the answer.

For three decades I have, at various points, collected the stickers, purchased the toys, played the board games, the computer games, the card games. I quoted the films and used them as a source of strength and comfort when life became hard. I even proposed to my future bride with a line from Star Wars.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side … and you, are a good blaster, and I want you at my side for the rest of my life”

So what went wrong?

Of course the new films did not help, but I feel Simon Pegg summed up our feelings on that subject in Spaced.

I also hated the tinkering. The added special effects and the whole Greedo shooting first fiasco.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith used humour to point out the racism and the injustice of Star Wars. Just how many innocent plumbers and catering assistants died on the Death Star?

But what actually killed my passion for Star Wars was fandom.

The first time I noticed this was the last time I watched the trilogy. It was in Blu-Ray with surround sound, which was an amazing experience, but I did not get immersed as much as normal.

The reason for this is that I kept seeing and hearing the many parodies and satires, rather than watching the films.

Family Guy is a big culprit, but it is Vaders loss of villainy that has been the most damaging. Freddie (Nightmare on Elm Street) should not Rap and Darth Vader should not dance to M.C. Hammer.

There are videos of Vader being a jerk and being re-voiced by Arnie, but it is the video of him voiced by a character from Snatch that has changed the way I look at one of cinemas greatest villains.

All of these videos are funny and were never meant to be taken seriously. I laugh at them and share them, as I am doing now.

But it all seems like sunshine and giggles until you come to watch the original source material and realise that you can no longer see past the fandom.

As Danny says in Withnail and I –

“If you’re hanging on to a rising balloon, you’re presented with a difficult decision – let go before it’s too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope? They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworths, man.”

Star Wars has become a joke to me, and I am letting go of the rope.


Some people have said to me that they would rather stay at home and enjoy a film on their big HD TV, Blu-Ray player and surround sound system, than spend money and go out to the cinema where they will be annoyed by people talking, moving or pretty much existing. (You shouldn’t say things like this, when you do, a puppy dies somewhere)

“These hermits are clearly mad”, I would think to myself, as a well managed cinema is a delight and is the rightful home to enjoy film as it was intended.

However I recently went out and bought a Blu-Ray Player with surround sound speakers, to go alongside my Sony Bravia TV, and the improvement has been astonishing.

I am sure it wasn’t always this good. I remember seeing a friends HD TV 4 years ago or so, and I thought the image was really off putting. I am starting to think that Blu-Ray Discs were, and are, still so advanced that equipment such as TVs, Blue Ray Players and HDMI cables are having to run to keep up. But they are gaining.

So far I have only watched Beauty and the Beast (which I had free from a Disney Road show), the musical numbers are spectacular in surround sound and the Beasts roar made my bum tingle. But the great thing that this new kit has done is re-ignite my passion for film.

You can get films free with newspapers, pick DVDs up for £2 in a supermarket, download them, watch them on the many, many channels now available, or, if you are so inclined, pirate them.

So why own DVDs at all?

My Home Entertainment System has changed that. I am giddy once again and I am about to go on a spending spree to re-watch pretty much any film I have ever seen, but this time it will be in HD and the glory of surround sound. Blu-Rays are often packed with even more extras too, they have more value and deserve a place on your shelves.

Home Entertainment Systems allow cinematic films (such as Inception and Tron) to have a stronger survival rate when watched at home, and that can only be a good thing.(Where as literary films such as The Kings Speech make the transfer to home viewing far easier)

The way we watch a film matters, and being in a cinema is still the best way to enjoy them. The build up as the adverts and trailers pass by, the ever so exciting Pearl and Dean fanfare, the hushed tones as the lights dim, and the SHARED experience of enjoying an art form.

To laugh, cry, be thrilled or terrified amongst a crowd of strangers is a beautiful thing. It is society at its best, people coming together to hear a story.

Cinema will always stand alone and fear no competition (as long as they provide a good customer experience) but home entertainment systems should have you buzzing with excitement at the prospect of re-watching The Thing, Jaws, The Godfather, Once Upon A Time In The West, Kung Fu Hustle, The Terminator, Aliens, hell even Road House.

Film is ACE. For a little while I think I forgot that.

Further Reading

This is the Kit I got. I wanted one with small speakers, and you could send off for the original Star wars trilogy on Blu-Ray for free.

And this is the awesome Pearl and Dean music.

We have a wonderful customer base at the cinema who are happy with the service we provide and the prices we charge. As Penrith bites and scratches to hang on to its position as a tourist destination we also have many customers from outside of the area who are delighted at how little we charge in comparison with their home town.

But prices are, and have been increasing, and there is the occasional customer that takes their frustration out on my staff.

I can remember, of course, when chewits were 10p, or those small cans of coke were 7p (I think they are 40p now?) We all remember when petrol was cheaper and each week we notice that our food shopping costs are ever increasing.

According to the UN’s latest update on global food prices, the cost of basic foods is still 37% higher than it was last year

Sadly this does not look like it will change, but we do our best at the cinema to remain competitive. We have rising costs of course, as do our suppliers. At least three companies we dealt with have gone bankrupt in the past year or two, it’s a challenging situation to be in.

Many understand that we are only actually making money for the 20 minutes before a film starts, and that the ticket price is split between the cinema and the distributor. We have no where near the buying power of a supermarket, so of course they will be cheaper than us when it comes to food. But we try to come in lower than a motorway petrol station.

But none of this really matters. Perhaps the issue is the value we put on goods and services? Sadly, due to piracy, £2 DVD bargain bins and newspapers giving away films for free, the perceived value of film is decreasing. It is becoming disposable, which is made worse by the industry responding to these new challenges by making broader, appeal to all, dumber movies … which we will have forgotten about the following year.

So how much is a cinema visit worth? Lets take Transformers 3 in 3D as an example (which cost over $400 Million to make – even more for print and advertising costs). An adult can come to our cinema and pay £7.50 (with the glasses) and watch a film on a big screen with 3D effects, for well over 2 hours and (hopefully) be entertained and have a respite from the stresses of life. With other films (probably not in 3D) perhaps the audience will be moved or inspired. For £5.50.

For an adult to go and look at some animals in a zoo it can cost £12.50.

Laser Quest will usually be around £4 – £5 for 20 minutes or so.

Bowling will be around £5

Last year I paid £4.50 to walk around a Maize Maze for a few hours. (and had a thoroughly nice day)

There are even people paying £10 to put their feet in a bucket of fish for 10 minutes.

Perhaps that’s the future of cinema. Each seat will have a bucket of fish in front of it so you can relax your feet whilst watching the film.

Let me be clear. I am not attacking any of the above. Each one provides either fun or relaxation, and a diversion from work, chores and bills.

They have value …. but why is that perceived value often seen to be greater than engaging with an art form, with culture. (I know, I know.. I am on shaky ground using Transformers as a case study and then talking about culture)

I understand that is annoying to pay more than you did a few years ago to watch a disappointing film. It is therefore important to read reviews, talk to those that have seen it and make an informed decision as to whether you want to risk it.

But if you do risk it, and get lucky, you may just watch a film that will make you laugh or cry, that may touch your soul, that could stay with you for the rest of your life and change the way you perceive the world.

Thats got to be worth £5.50 surely?

Further Reading

My friend Darren Connors film blog, who sadly passed away recently.

An article on cinema costs at Wise Geek

Standing in the doorway to the cinema over Easter weekend I noticed many young men walking past with their tops off and wearing a baseball cap. What is it about baseball caps that make them so popular among teenagers and those in their early twenties? Don’t they understand that only Magnum P.I could truly get away with wearing one?

A baseball cap is a strange piece of clothing because it seems to signify youth (in this country at least), and yet many of these males want to be taken seriously as men. Defining what a “man” is, is a tricky task indeed and I wonder if that is partly because of the lack of initiation rites in our culture. When do boys become men? It can’t be when we breed, because we have 12 year olds doing that now. It cant be when we get a mortgage, because I did that and nothing changed. So it must be something in our behaviour, in our wisdom and in our morals.

For me being a “man” is linked closely to my on screen role models. Put simply, it is doing the right thing. A quick assessment of any strong male role model in cinema will show a distinct lack of baseball hat wearing heroes (okay maybe Kurt Russel in Big Trouble in Little China, but he was more charming baffoon than Hero). There are several far more manly hats than a baseball cap and I have come up with the 7 best which will no doubt stir your ire.

Indiana Jones – The 100% Fur Felt Fedora that helped make archeologists sexy. He fought Nazi’s, saved child slaves, and still mantained a touch of the badboy fortune and glory hunter about him. Shortround wore the baseball cap. Who would you rather be?

The 100% Fur Felt Fedora that helped make archeologists sexy.

“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”

Mick Dundee (Crocodile Dundee) The 100% Beaver Akubra hat (I think) with a crocodile leather hatband.
Yes he could kill a crocodile with his bare hands….and a knife, but he was also a genuinely nice bloke who accepted everyone just the way they were, and wanted the best for them all.

"That's incredible. Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. Yeah, New York must be the friendliest place on earth."

John Wayne (Westerns)
John Wayne wore a lot of hats and played a lot of roles which often had this similiarity; they were AWESOME. His characters had integrity, courage and perseverance. He always strove to do the right thing and was loyal to his friends.

"Out here a man settles his own problems."

Rick (Casablanca) Fedora.
So many good acts under the guise of being out for himself, but it is the ending for which he will always be remembered. Bogart wore a Fedora in many of his films, the stand out ones being The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep.

"Are my eyes really brown?"

Solomon Kane
Solomon Kane was a 16th Century badass created by Conan creator Robert E Howard. He was an anti hero that turned to the path of rightousness and now stalks the land vanguishing evil …whilst wearing an absolutely phenomenal hat.

"There are many paths to redemption, not all of them peaceful."

Rocky – (Rocky 1 and Rocky Balboa) Another Fedora.
Rocky may be as thick as a whale omlette, but he has got it where it counts. He is a good man, that is polite and respectful to all and just wants to do his best. No matter what life throws at him he gets back up and gets back in to the fight. Yeah he does.

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it."

George Stone – (The Untouchables)
Sure Elliot Ness brought them together, and Sean Connery as Malone is an audience favourite, but it is Andy Garcia as Stone who has the coolest scene by far as he slides across the floor saving a baby, throwing a gun to his unarmed friend and getting the bad guy in his own sights. Yes they were untouchable, but they were also friends, striving to do the right thing against overwhelming odds.

"If he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. If he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue."

With so many great hats on offer why choose a baseball cap? I suspect it is the desire to fit in. I read somewhere that we comprimise 95% of our personality during our school years, in order to fit in. (I hope thats not true.) A year ago I bought a Fedora, and as I stepped out of my house I hesitated and had a moment when I feared the reaction I would get at work. Isn’t that crazy? A 32 year old worrying about how people will react to a hat? None of the above worried, and so neither will I and neither should you.

So cast off your baseball caps and wear a hat that shows off your desire to me a man – whatever that is.

Further Reading

The Art of Manliness guide to hats and hat etiquette.

Hat Shop – where I got my Fedora

One of the most frequently asked questions we get at the cinema is “what does 12A mean?”.

This used to surprise me as the 12A certificate has been around since 2002 when the 12 certificate changed to 12A (which means under 12s can get in with an adult). This was in response to a parental outcry that their pre-teen children could not see Spider Man, and 20 to 30 local authorities over-ruled the British Board of Film Classifications (BBFC) decision.

Adults are usually supportive of age classification, and I am sure many would approve of making all films 18 certificate so they do not have to share the screen with groups of children. But something happens when adults become parents. It must be something to do with the level of responsibility that they have, or that they suddenly have a role that gives them absolute authority in which they can make the statement “because I said so”.

A minority of parents will come in with an 11-year-old child (or younger) to watch a 15 or 18 certificate film in the belief that because the child is accompanied by them, he or she should be allowed entry.

There is some logic to this I suppose, as surely a parent knows best? Children mature at different rates and perhaps the parent should be the voice of authority regarding what their child can watch. They do this at home after all.

However this is not the case at the cinema. The BBFC draws a line in the sand. They classify films that clearly state what audience the film is suitable for and they do this by age groups. The system is not perfect. A case could be made that this scene in the The Lion King (U)…

…is more upsetting than watching Evil Dead (18). (Which got mixed up in the Video Nasties scare of the 1980’s) Or perhaps that The Phantom Menace (U) is more psychologically damaging than Schindler’s List (15). But it’s the best and only system we have.

I understand that in a few mouse clicks you could have moved from this blog on to a site that has hardcore pornographic imagery, or perhaps real life footage of a man being beheaded. You can do that, and unsupervised children can do that. Not only that, but they can also access it on their phones.

Many under 18s have access to violent and sexual imagery and games, so why bother enforcing age classification at my cinema? Is it just because I have seen too many John Wayne movies and aspire to be a professional, or because I worry about 8-year-olds watching a 12A film in which strong language is used (the “F” word…but it will be infrequent).

Recently there has been press that children, particularly girls, are being more unruly and violent at schools. As always some finger pointing is going on targeting films and television.

I agree the media is influential. I could talk about mass audience theories, issues of censorship and copycat crimes all day. I could recount how after watching a fairly tame film like Spiderman, a horde of hyper, sugar-filled children will erupt from the screen and “play” fight all the way home. I could discuss at length who is likely to be influenced by film and who the vulnerable people are. But for me it comes down to one thing, you can’t “unsee” something. If it is not appropriate, or gives you nightmares, the damage is done. So we have to be careful, especially where young people are concerned.

We can be influenced by the media, which is why so much money is spent on advertising.

I watched this advert.

I now use Old Spice.

I also watched The Expendables, and started a mixed martial art (both positive examples though, I smell nice and I am getting fitter and more confident).

All of this is fine until my staff and I come in to conflict with customers about the age restrictions. It is at this point that the jobsworth feeling kicks in.

To help clarify our position, the following arguments will not sway us.

:- But it’s his twelfth birthday tomorrow and today is his birthday treat, and he doesn’t want to come in with his parents.
(I look forward to allowing him entry tomorrow, when he is twelve)

:- You let her in last week for a 12A on her own.
(We do make mistakes. Trying to guess a teenager’s age, especially girls, is incredibly difficult.)

:- You let his friends in yesterday and they are not 12.
(See above. Just because we are not perfect does not mean we won’t keep trying)

:- He watches far worse than that at home.

(This one scares me the most)

So in conclusion:

I am a Cinema Manager, not a parent, and you will know your child best.

I have a legal responsibility to enforce age restrictions. I also agree with them, the alternative being regular emotional maturity tests for all (would I pass?).

I recommend you double-check the films age classification before you leave the house, or before you tell your children they can watch a film at the cinema.

I applaud those parents that read film reviews and check on the films suitability beforehand. I even witnessed one parent come and watch the film on her own in order check it was okay for her daughter, who she brought the following day (a serious time commitment few can act upon).

These are media saturated times and perhaps abiding by the BBFC guidelines is old fashioned. But it’s our line in the sand, and we will not be crossing it.

Further Reading

BBFC Website

BBFC 12A Guidelines

BBFC Parents Guide

Tips to get a job

Posted: April 15, 2011 in Cinema Related
Tags: , , ,

I manage a cinema. A small cinema, with low staff needs. And yet, we get inundated with requests for work. This could be because of my sparkling personality, or it could be that working in a cinema is seen as an “easy” job. (It’s not “easy”, but the team and customers make it nice.)

When the cinema faced closure I dipped back into the applying for jobs scenario, dusted off my C.V and went to interviews, and so I have decided to give some advice on how to approach it.

This is primarily aimed at school leavers, who I see making the most mistakes.

DO NOT get your mum to ask whether we have vacancies.

DO NOT ask random staff members “got any jobs going?”. This is not a good start.

DO NOT ask about vacancies through a social networking site. (Stop asking Angela for jobs on Facebook.)

DO NOT ask about vacancies whilst coming into the cinema. Is this an afterthought to you? Are you actually looking for work or just hoping one will appear during the course of your usual day?

DO NOT ask about vacancies on the way out of the cinema, in casual clothes, with slushy around your mouth and popcorn bits imbedded in your hoody.

DO write a C.V. but research what it should look like. I suggest two A4 pages maximum, and I would be okay with school leavers getting it down to one page. (If you have a Degree, I dont care what your GCSE results are.)

DO make sure your name and contact details are prominant at the start.

DO target it towards the cinema. At the very least state somewhere that you like films.

DO write a cover letter that tells me why you specifically want to work for me and why you will be a good addition to the team.

DO proofread your C.V and cover letter, as well as your email content if applying online.

DO have an easy to read font and format for your C.V. (NOT COMIC SANS – It’s a C.V not a sign for a carboot sale.) Keep it uncluttered. I am skim reading for details that may get you an interview. Tease me, don’t bore me.

DO find out the name of the person who will read the C.V. Dear Sir/Madam is lazy and does not cut it. It’s a quick phone call to find out a name, and I would have thought that the recent campaign and press coverage would make my name even easier to find out.

DO research the company you are applying for. Who are they owned by? What is their turnover? What does the future hold for them? Any recent press? Who are their customers / target audience? Someone applied for a job a month ago and did not know about the save the cinema campaign!

DO have a mature email address. I am not going to email “ (unless it’s a Sunday). It should be YOUR etc.

DO make sure your social networking sites does you justice. I will be looking, and privacy settings may not help you if one of my staff is on your “friend” list.

If you ask casually I will usually say no, followed by “but KFC are looking for staff”. So far everyone has said “oh, I am not gonna work there”. As it turns out, you won’t be working at the cinema either. This tells me you are not serious about wanting to work, and probably will not want to unblock our toilets or clean up a 6 year old’s slushy and liquorice allsort filled vomit. A fast food chain on your C.V can be a very good thing.

If you are serious about wanting work at the very least dress smartly and walk around every potential employer in Penrith and politely hand in your C.V (ideally with a tailored cover letter addressed to the appropriate person). Smile, and ask that if they do not currently have any vacancies could they keep your C.V on file.

The competition is stiff. I have applications from people with Masters Degrees in Film and years of customer facing experience. The cinema IS part of the film industry, so I will prioritise those who want to work in that industry, rather than just wanting a part-time job. Quention Tarantino used to work in a video store because he at least got to talk about films.

What is it YOU want to do? Try to get a job at least linked to that field in some way.

That’s it for now. Most of the above tips will apply to other employers too.

I may cover interview advice at another date.

There are some more tips at Jobsite.

Good luck.

P.S  No, we are currently not hiring, and that is unlikely to change for a very long time.

Saving the Cinema

Posted: April 12, 2011 in Cinema Related
Tags: , , ,

As many of you know the two screen independent cinema I manage in Penrith faced closure on April 30th due to the Bingo, which occupied the same building, being closed down due to substantial losses. Recently the owner, Alan Towers, was contacted by Vince Hughes of Graves (Cumberland) Ltd offering a new long term lease.

This is wonderful news and is also the reason I am going to start blogging and using social media more. It was tools such as Twitter and Facebook that allowed the community to rally round and organise protests such as this one:

There was support from the BBC as well as local newspapers and Radio Stations as well as national newspapers such as the Guardian (thanks to celebraty support from Richard E Grant and Eddie Izzard.)

However in a dramatic turn of events, caused by an overwhelming response from the Penrith Community, that decision has now been re-thought. The cinema is staying open and a new tenant will be sought for the bingo side.

The Cinema Team would like to say a HUGE thank you to the campaign group who have optimistically, enthusiastically and determinedly fought to save the cinema against, what many believed to be, overwhelming odds.

The Guardian again covered the story here, along with local press. and the ever present Cumbria Crack.

Our gratitude is also heaped upon all those people who supported us by signing the petition (which got us an extension) or helped out with fundraising activities, bought some merchandise, or pledged to buy shares.

You are all wonderful.

I am sorry to say I had my doubts. This seemed like a David and Goliath fight and in the real world David takes a beating. Not so. It seems that if you get enough “David’s” together the impossible can be achieved.

I can speak for the whole team when I say we have been overwhelmed by the support from people not just from Penrith, but all over the world, and we will strive to continue providing a community and customer focused service.

We are looking forward to a great summer and are very excited about showing some great films such as Thor (3D), Pirates 4, X-Men and the Green Lantern.

Thank you all.

Darren Horne and the staff at Penriths Lonsdale Cinema.