Culture feature Film

New Cinema Opens at St. James Quarter

Several years ago, I was employed (as a counsellor, videographer, and shit-eater) at one of those overpriced children’s summer camps in the continental United States. On one of my few days off, I cycled along a motorway for a good two hours to come to what I assumed would be a typical suburban multiplex. On arrival, (with, I should note, internal, soon to be external) bleeding from the hard-packed crummy little saddle which had borne me), I found myself facing Smitty’s Cinema & Pub.

Being of a civilised disposition, I naturally assumed that the flaking building in front of me would house not one but two separate establishments. I bought my ticket (for War for the Planet of the Apes, which was a hoot n’ a half) and headed to screen two. I couldn’t have fathomed the late capitalist Yankee miseries which lay in wait; the auditorium, made up of swivel office chairs arranged in front of sticky plastic tables, was never darkened (Smitty being, I imagine, a victim of nyctalopia). Bemused, I was approached by a decidedly unenthusiastic (for who can blame him) waiter, who, speaking at full restaurant volume, attempted to take my order. After whispering him away, I watched that fine Andy Serkis monkey picture engulfed in a heady aroma of boiled onions and beer burps.

Now why, you’re probably thinking, am I telling you this? For the important lesson learned: Beware the gimmick cinema.

Coming soon to St James Quarter is a brand-spanking-new Everyman, which promises “an innovative lifestyle approach to cinema-going”. Instead of the classic popcorn and coke, which the Every-Men would reserve for The Great Unwashed over at Vue, you can indulge in a “gourmet burger” with “a nice glass of red wine” as part of their “premium food and drink selection”. With “extravagant” events and velvet furniture which, they promise, you’ll “sink” into, the Everyman offers cinema “but not as you know it”.

For £15, just triple the price of a ticket to the Omni (126.9 yards away), you can watch Jared Leto pounce around while tucking into food that was made specifically for people whose attention is elsewhere. This new Everyman finds itself second in the price-rung of faux-opulent Edinburgh cinemas; first place goes to The Scotsman Picturehouse, which, they tell us, “benefits from a claret soft deep pile carpet” (ticket price £19.95). Lastly, for the misers amongst us, is The Dominion, outfitted with “proper glasses”, “complimentary Pringle snacks”, and a “wine merchant” named “Tarquin de Burgh” (ticket price £14.95).

What is needed for a cinema to be great? Institutions like The Glasgow Film Theatre, Dundee Contemporary Arts, or our Filmhouse offer a smorgasbord of classic and contemporary works. Blessed with features like visiting guest speakers, world-renowned festivals, passionate staff, and (perhaps most important of all for the penny-pinching SAAS recipient), very reasonable prices.

The necessary and sufficient conditions for a respected picture-house do not include deep pile carpets, empire lamps, tart wine, USB points, reheated pizza, or invasive table service. If you’re feeling hedonistic and want to be ripped off at a cinema, then, by all means, go ahead. Enjoy spending thrice the money on the same film, surrounded by the fist-clenching sounds of pringle munching, wine drinking, gourmet burger consuming social climbers. If there’s anything to be gained from the opening of yet another gimmick cinema, it must be that when the revolution comes, we’ll know where to begin.

Image: ‘The Return of Cinema 02′, courtesy of byronv2, is Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0, via Flickr