Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday, 17 May 2010

A mass cultural imperative? Pass the popcorn

A Facebook group has been set up (don’t you hate that phrase?) in a midlands town; so far, 150 people have signed up. The founder justifies her campaign thus:

“The Council advertises that one of its priorities is to be cleaner and greener; how can that be true when we have to travel so far by car, adding to the carbon footprint?”

So what is it that forces residents to drive unreasonable distances? Medical care? Education? Grocery shopping? No, all of these are in plentiful supply locally and well served by public transport.

What this town lacks is a multiplex cinema. The unfortunate inhabitants only have access to a two-screen town centre Odeon – 385 and 190 seats respectively – which is, apparently, not enough for some people; the campaign’s founder is ‘fed up having to travel to Northampton or Milton Keynes to view films in a modern big cinema’.

Now I’m not averse to the occasional night out at the pictures, but I’m intrigued by this wish for a multi-screen venue, since the main screen may be large but the other eight or so range in size down to something smaller than some of the televisions on sale in Curry’s. In any case, since you can only watch one film at a time, I’d have thought the number of screens is largely irrelevant.

But more interesting than that is the phrasing – that imperative ‘have to’. A cinema already exists, centrally located and near several car parks, big enough to hold 1% of the town’s entire population. It shows the same films as the big venues, it even sells the same over-priced sweets and buckets of popcorn.

And yet, when the 150 Facebook petitioners pass it by on their 40 mile drive to a multiplex, their increased carbon footprint is someone else’s fault.


  1. Good lord! I'm only surprised she didn't claim a multi screen cinema as another of that long, long list of 'human rights'...

  2. I blame the Americans, JuliaM; '...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and a nine-screen multiplex cinema...'

    (Your comment is much appreciated, give your router problems)

  3. Sadly, we have given up going to cinema, the sound level and often poor quality can batter the ear drums too hard let alone the mild concussion. Also, the last time we went, despite the level of sound we could barely hear the words through the munching sound of most of the rest of the audience.

  4. I agree, Demetrius; the whole business is an assault on the senses (and you forgot the olefactory pollution of popcorn and hot dogs).

    However, there are films to which the small screen cannot do justice; I'll never forget seeing 'The Mission' on a cliff-sized screen in in the cavernous Leicester Square Odeon, and I recently had a great night out watching Roland Emmerich's new comedy '2012' - haven't laughed so much for years!