Arts notebook: No popcorn, please, we're British

It is, apparently, the curse of fin de siecle film-going. Popcorn is to be banned at the Barbican Centre cinemas in London, I hear, because of the non-aesthetic noises emitted in the digestion of the same, be it sweet or salted. Or, as spokeswoman Valerie Gillard informs me, "The people who watch films here don't feel they can concentrate, with all that munching going on."

Barbican filmgoers are indeed a serious bunch with intense powers of concentration. They have to possess those qualities to find the entrance to the cinemas. But their hostility to popcorn is more intense than even their concentration. Barbican MD John Tusa has commissioned, at some expense, a survey of cinema patrons at the Centre, and found that a staggering 85 per cent of them would not come if popcorn were sold, sweet or salted. One chills to think of the torments they must suffer at virtually every other cinema in the country. I do share some of their distaste for popcorn, sweet rather than salted, but less over the munching and more because of the way the discarded pops of corn on the floor stick to the soles of one's shoes.

But such niggling is as nothing to the venom of Barbican cinemagoers. Chris Travers, head of marketing, who conducted the survey, says people come from across London, and one customer even from Devon, to avoid popcorn- infested cinemas. His research also discovered that a bucket of popcorn costs one penny to make and is generally sold for pounds 1.50. A case for investigation by the Culture Select Committee perhaps.

The other dislike found in the survey will not be so easily remedied. Adult cinemagoers wanted to see PG and U certificate movies but did not want to be surrounded by children. 101 Dalmatians was a particular example named. "We might have children-free screenings of family films," says Mr Travers, "but it's a bit of a tricky one." Not necessarily. Sell popcorn at the entrance to the Barbican Theatre and send the kids off to see Cymbeline.

Mary Allen has just completed her first week at the helm of the Royal Opera House, spending some of the time preparing her evidence to the House of Commons select committee inquiry next month. I suggest she takes a highly radical line. Pressed as she will be about making Covent Garden "The People's Opera" and taking both opera and ballet to the people, she should read out the advance ticket sales for both opera and ballet at their new temporary London venues. They are, to put it mildly, poor; and in the case of the Royal Ballet at the Labatt's Apollo, Hammersmith, pitiful, at under 30 per cent. A company as brilliant as the Royal Ballet currently is has been taken to the people, at a pop venue, and the people don't want to know.

Part of the reason is that, in all the clamour against supposed elitism, one key point has proved too politically incorrect for anyone to mention. Both opera and ballet need an atmosphere of grandeur; plot, costume and the raw emotions can all seem uncomfortable in downmarket settings. Deprived of that pomp, opera and ballet can look artificial and anachronistic. And there is no pomp in a converted cinema. For similar reasons, the plan by the opera house chairman Lord Chadlington to relay performances to multiplexes is also doomed to failure. The way to beat elitism is not to take the wares to pop show venues or cinemas, but to keep them in plush surroundings and lower the ticket prices. Keep the prices down and keep the venues upmarket, and the audiences will come.

There are, we are told, definitely no plans to record Elton John's reworking of "Candle in the Wind" that he is singing at today's funeral. But three months is a long time in the music business. I predict that, come Christmas, a version of the rewritten song will be released - either a new recording or, more probably, today's emotionally charged live version, with the proceeds, one hopes, going towards Princess Diana's charities. And, unlike the original, it will be assured of the No 1 spot.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Client IT Account Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client IT Account Manager is ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / Analyst (CIMA finalist/newly qualified)

    £32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / F...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

    Recruitment Genius: Help Desk Specialist

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides Reliabili...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor