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In The Red: A pauper’s grave means I’m happy to pay for entertainment


Last week, in describing the death of Glasgow’s most iconic urban cinema (it gave way, as most now have done, to a peripheral multiplex smelling of non-dairy butter substitute), I touched on the massive change in how we consume movies.

Instead of punters visiting the cinema after having eaten at home, 21st-century food/leisure/entertainment complexes offer an evening – and possibly even a whole day – of retail and culinary attractions for the modern family. Everything under one roof: that’s the law. The contemporary big mall experience sees Mum and Dad (and Chelsea and Jordan) having a day of shopping and bowling and shopping and lunching, before repairing to the 24-screen UCI/Vue/whatever to watch Ice Age 6. In 6D!!

However, I must reiterate that I don’t really bemoan the death of the high-street movie house. It’s just that the system which delivers our films has evolved. Time passes. Big deal. This is clear from the fact that going to Blockbuster to hire a film for the night seems as contemporary as trim-phones and The Specials on Top of the Pops. Whether people will even go to the cinema in 30 years’ time is open to debate. Is the collective experience even worth preserving?

Personally, I would prefer to watch a movie at home on my big television, secure in the knowledge that my wife is within squeezing distance (without a chair arm between us) and the Pause button is there should my bladder or the fridge demand we take five. Plus, no one is going to play Angry Birds on their iPhone or cough up a lung all the way through it.

The other changing factor is the cost. Blockbuster used to charge between £3 and £4 to hire one film; Netflix and LoveFilm ask a fiver per month to gain access to their whole library of films and TV shows. But some people still feel we pay too much and should get all of our entertainment free. A colleague of mine is always aghast when I tell him I bought a new album on iTunes or ordered a DVD online. “Why are you still PAYING?” he asks, shaking his head in wonder. He has (barely legal) access to sites which allow him to get pretty much every song, movie or TV show ever made – for nothing.

But I’m happy to pay for my entertainment. Had Mozart lived in an age when a charge was levied for every recording of his work, he wouldn’t have ended up in a pauper’s grave. He would have made heaps of cash, like your man McCartney. And, call me a fool, but the thought of Mozart dying penniless is what keeps me reaching for my debit card.