Maggie Smith is right about Hollywood's obsession with youth. The whole industry is blinkered

Why is there such little cultural output for the vast demographic that our writer calls "the go-ahead grey pound"? If anything, there should be more now than ever

Click to follow
The Independent Online

My parents, aged 80 and 82, are on holiday in Cornwall. It’s a bit rainy down there, however. And they’re a bit bored. So I suggested they visit the brand new multi-screen Lighthouse cinema which is about two miles away in Newquay. Today, however, the progamme was as follows: Looper, Sinister, a teen romance, and Frankenweenie. Oh, and Hotel Transylvania. Which was the highlight of a birthday party my seven year old son attended last week. Tomorrow's offer; much the same, only with the addition of Paranormal Activity 4.

Dame Maggie Smith, who has attacked Hollywood’s obsession with youth, is quite right to point up the blinkered nature of the cinema industry. From the evidence of Newquay, which I would say is pretty representative of this week’s showings across the UK, the only people who count at the movies seem to be horror junkies, or small children.

It’s not as if everyone over 50 wants to stay at home, watching people like Dame Maggie swishing about in Downton Abbey. My parents are avid cultural participants, for new stuff as well as old. They go and see all sorts of interesting new theatre; my mother is never happier than when investigating bizarre abstract art in some barren East London warehouse. Alright, they’re not quite on Twitter yet, but give it time.

Yet look at cinema offerings and you’d think such a demographic – the go-ahead grey pound, you could call it - simply doesn’t exist. Apart from those unchallenging King’s Speech-y type heritage films, which seem to loom up only every three years, almost nothing seems to be produced with this large (and growing) market in mind. This isn’t about festivals, where discerning movies are thick on the ground, but films that older audiences can see locally, regularly. I would have thought it was a no-brainer. This audience has money and time, plus they aren’t going to litter the place with popcorn.

Of course, the books market is quite well aware of such an intelligent, discerning and hungry market. Who do you think actually reads all those biographies of Dickens, the latest by Pinker or Dawkins; even the meditations on sex by Alain de Botton? Certainly not anyone with school children. We haven’t got the energy for anything meatier than The Casual Vacancy. I warrant that Hilary Mantel’s latest triumph will be underneath quite a few festive trees this season, but with “Happy Christmas Granny and Grandad” in shaky capital letters on the wrapping paper.

Keeping the fox from the door

You’ve all seen those mad people who diligently feed pigeons with bag-loads of bread. Let me introduce you to the latest urban trend; fox feeding. Every morning at 5.15 precisely, a woman walks around the corner of my road and proceeds to feed at least six local foxes. With bread, it seems. This has happened so often that the beasts now wait for the delivery, like some vulpine version of Ocado. Nothing can be done about it, either. The council does not prohibit the feeding of vermin, although it admits that getting close to large animals with brushes might encourage them to “interact” with humans. Which is not good news. I wait for the doorbell to ring and to find Mr Tod elegantly languishing on my doorstep, hoping for a chicken sandwich.