Alice-Azania Jarvis: Why is the cinema so expensive?

In The Red
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The Independent Online

I am not much of a cinema-goer. I like films, but I like them on DVD. I don't really believe much magic is lost in the transition from big to small screen – and what is lost is more than made up for by the presence of a sofa, a glass of wine and the blessed silence.

Not for me the nattering of teenagers in the back row, and the munch-munch-crunch-crunch of masticated popcorn. Not for me the squeaky crackling of a chocolate bar being opened, or the incessant rattling of M&Ms being poured into a hand. Nope, the only sound I like to hear when I'm watching a film is that of my own breathing. Or munching. Or glugging. At a stretch, I might even tolerate my boyfriend's. He is not, after all, a room full of strangers.

Yet, lately I've been going to the cinema quite a lot. I went once at Christmas, with my sister – (because that's what we do when we have days out together. And I've been twice since, to see The King's Speech and Blue Valentine. This weekend, I'm hoping to see Black Swan.

Goodness knows quite where this enthusiasm has sprung from. It's awards season, yes, but then it's awards season every year and I don't usually get so excited. It might also be that I've given up drinking for a month, which leaves me rather short on the entertainment front. But, whatever the reason, this January I've become something of a film buff.

I've also become considerably poorer. The cinema, I've discovered, is massively expensive, at £13-odd for a ticket! At Camden Odeon where, speaking of bad service (see last week's rant about Tesco, Kwik-Fit et al), conditions are appalling. "It looks like it has rats in it," a friend remarked recently. It feels like it does, too – the place is beyond filthy, the screenings packed in back-to-back, allowing no time for cleaning. The floor is permanently littered with popcorn; the seats are gluey with gum. The bathroom rarely has soap and, even when it does, I doubt it would be sufficient after the grime of the cubicles. It is much the same elsewhere, though there are a few notable exceptions. Where does my £13 go? In only costs a few quid extra to go to one of those posh, wine-and-Kettle Chips screening rooms. And I'm starting to think I should pay it.

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