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The Rise and Fall of Accessible Movies

The day has long passed when going to the cinema was considered to be a cheap outing for all the family, especially in London. These days, the cost for a family of four will often exceed £50 - excluding snacks, slushies, Central London prices (which apparently double at the entrance to the congestion charge), 3D movies, 4D movies, and even any box office hit shown at a 'peak time'. You really have to budget if you want to take your loved ones to a 3D box office hit in Leicester Square at 8pm on a Friday night, and they all love a Tango.

       As with everything consumable, we are prepared, to a degree, for the cost of cinemagoing to increase disproportionately to wage rises. Yet the ever-shrinking number of people taking the time out to go to the cinema over the past few years is one reason for the sharp rise in cost, creating a Catch 22 scenario. With the ease and low cost of home cinema systems, smart TVs, Netflix and Amazon Prime infiltrating our domestic environment, it's no wonder less people venture out to a crowded, loud and sometimes uncared-for auditorium to see a movie, favouring home comfort and significant money-saving instead. When your own living room can strikingly resemble a cinema but for the difference in scale, what's the point of spending the cost of a week's food shopping on a trip to the local multiplex?

      Furthermore, cinemas are becoming increasinglydesperate to hold on to their market-share, with staff thrusting the latest monthly cinema pass at you for 'only £19.99 a month' and employing pensioners part-time as a distraction from the fact that they've just asked you to spend £10 on stale popcorn. With films remaining in situ for months at a time, does a 'worthwhile if you come more than twice a month' cinema membership then mean watching the same films over and over again just to get your money's worth? The country's Odeons even have the temerity to charge almost £5 for a tiny cup of sugary water named a Tango Ice something-or-other, which is basically a slush-puppy by another name for those of you who were around and cinemagoing in the early 2000s. But we won't dwell on how ever more multiplexes are making things smaller while at the same time charging double what they did last year.


      In sharp juxtaposition to the cinema and the people who pay to visit one, there is another factor in play for the reduction in attendance. Piracy is bigger than ever; it would be naive to ignore the very real probability that many people aren't waiting for a film to reach cinema screens before downloading it illegally or streaming it from dedicated vendors. Piracy-enabling apps such as Showbox can be downloaded to tablets, smart-phones and perhaps even some smart TVs. The app has plenty of films to choose from, free of charge, many of which are still showing on the big screen. Only the hackers know how they do it, but a perfect copy of Deadpool was recently to be found on the app, despite it being given an extended run in cinemas.

      More recently, however, sites such as Putlocker, Sockshare and Megavideo, to name but a few, have been severely lacking in new films of any worthwhile quality. Something is happening to the accessibility of online films, with most new releases having little or no presence on the web. Has Hollywood finally found a way to fight the hackers, or is it just that after the splurge of 'screeners' available for the Oscars got into the wrong hands, illegal download sites have hit something of a dry patch? Whatever the reason, the result won't be the lowering of cinema prices and so any effect on the film industry as a whole will be minimal. The same customers who are price-excluded at present still won't be able to afford to go, and still won't be prioritising money from their 'national living wages' to buy Blu-rays. Will there be a future without piracy where we all pay a monthly fee to see anything and everything on our smart TV, including new releases? - Or will cinemas continue to behave like a cash-cow for the industry, steadily reducing their paying patrons to only a few oligarchs with offshore accounts? Only time will tell.

      Regardless, the cinema currently is riddled with ridiculously self-aware Hollywood superhero movies that assault the eyes but quite deaden the brain. So you might as well join the fad to 'Netflix 'n' Chill' or 'binge-watch' on Daredevil. At least then you can still do something else while the mindless spectacle on screen leaves your own mind to wander freely.