Being modern: Multiplex cinemas

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The Independent Culture

Thank the Lord for the multiplex. Not only do they lay on the biggest sci-fi blockbusters, romcoms and action-adventures, they ply customers with all the comfort food they could need. Mmm, pass the nachos; I haven't pasted enough fake cheese around my greasy gob yet. And at such value! Of course I'd like a bucket of cola and a rubbery hot dog – and change from a tenner? Wow!

UK box-office takings have never been healthier, at £1.1bn in 2010, up 2 per cent on what had been a banner year in 2009, when receipts grew 11 per cent. But that double-digit rise came with only a 6 per cent rise in admissions, while 2010's increase came despite a 2.4 per cent fall.

In other words, during the worst recession since Jude Law's hairline, they're charging us more. You might say, cinema is a business like anything else, so why not conform to supply and demand? Because, simply, a significant portion of that revenue increase has been driven by the introduction of 3D films, tickets for which typically cost £2 more. These films accounted for 16 per cent of the take in 2009, up from just 0.4 per cent in 2008. And what did we get for it? A few effects, motion sickness and the nagging question: what was the point of all that?

Involving storylines, quality acting and decent cinematography do not need 3D. Quality independent cinemas showing quality films (projected by people who know what they're doing rather than the work-experience kid) do not need 3D.

Multiplexes, however, are shovelling it down our throats just as surely as they do sickly popcorn and blockbuster trash. And by having more screens, they attract the unsuspecting, who believe they'll find more choice than at an independent cinema. But the truth is, more screens does not necessarily mean more real choice. It's often shlock or nothing. Yet with the independents outmuscled due to this misconception, these behemoths are all that are left in many of our vicinities.

The multiplex is turning cinema into a bean-counter's dream; wouldn't we rather it was still an artist's canvas? One way lies the next Transformers; the other, the next Truffaut.