A friend of mine recently went to the cinema to watch a movie and from the sounds of it, it was not an experience that went very well – just take a look at what The Hodge ended going through by having a quick read of his recent Vue Cinemas Have Banned Laptops blog post.

However, to very quickly summarise, Dom wanted to go to the cinema after work and therefore happened to have a laptop in his backpack, which he had to hand over before being able to go into the screen to watch the movie as he could record the screening on it! How dare he want to go to the cinema after work before first taking the trip to take his laptop home!

Anyway, here’s what I think…I really can’t believe that a business that is already struggling to survive in the face of advancing technology would want to further alienate remaining customers by treating them no better than a suspected or potential “criminal”.

If they’d said to me that I had to give up my MacBook Pro laptop to them before I could enter to watch a film I honestly wouldn’t have bothered staying in their venue and wouldn’t go back to any of their locations either – regardless of the principle (which on occasion I tend to take quite seriously and have been known to hold grudges against companies), there’s no reason why they should be asking to have expensive computers handed over to them for a couple of hours – who’s to say what could happen to it? I’m sure they’d not hold themselves liable if anything happened to it?

Also as Dom says, are we going to have to start handing over our mobile phones at the door as like the iPhone 4 they start to have HD cameras on them? – Why would we need to hand over any of our personal possessions? Surely, their “infra-red, recording device detecting cameras” would easily detect any electronic recording devices regardless – I presume they actually have some and that particular additional message we have to sit through before watching a movie isn’t just there for the sake of it.

Anyway, back to me, I’m a big movie fan, I used to go to the cinema at least twice a month ever since I could drive when I was 18 (I’m now 32), it was great just being able to go out driving, have a day out and also watch the latest movies with my friends – looking back on that, it seems like the experience was so much more worthwhile back then.

I also used to buy region 1 DVDs from US/Canada back before DVDs were even available to buy in the UK, I kept on buying both Region 1 and 2 DVDs (whichever version was the best) while still going to the cinema regularly to watch great films for the first time there, before then paying again for the (best) DVD to watch on my home cinema system, so the movie studios were getting my money at least twice for producing new films that I liked.

However, as the years have gone by, my home cinema setup has improved, whereas the annoyances of the cinema experience have only increased, be it the price of the ticket, food, drinks or the faults with the showing of the film or more often than not the dreadful teenagers (chavs specifically) who seem to enjoy going to the cinema no matter what time of day (I tried all times of the days and this always happens) who will talk, play about on their mobile phones or generally ‘mess around’ and spoil the experience of watching the film for everyone else – where do these people find the money to spend all day at the cinema?

I can honestly say that I’ve only been to a cinema once in the last 11 months and that was to see Iron Man 2 – that experience was also disappointing, not just the film itself, but the fact we paid for the Vue’s new VIP seating section – which as we found out was simply some leather seats in the middle of a normal screen with a bit more leg room – so you’re still stuck with the same issues of people talking and messing about – if only they’d had an entire screen as VIP, that might actually be worth paying the extra £1.50 or so per ticket.

Which brings me onto my next point, since last watching a film at the cinema in 2009 and going to watch Iron Man 2, I’d bought myself a big screen Samsung LED HDTV and a Sony PlayStation 3 to play Blu-Ray discs on – this is a great setup to watch movies in true high definition, not only is the picture quality great to look at, but the ‘relative size’ of the screen is larger than that of watching a film from the VIP seating in the middle of a cinema. So needless to say, having paid for a pretty good home cinema setup I’m now finding it very difficult to justify spending more money on going to see a film at the cinema versus simply waiting a few months and buying the Blu-Ray that will have special features and usually a commentary

I did think that cinemas were going to try and use the gimmick of 3D movies almost as a form of copy protection that couldn’t be replicated in people’s homes (either legally or illegally), however it would appear that the HDTV manufacturers and content productions and broadcasting companies such as Sky are now chasing after that same gimmick as another excuse to “upgrade” from their existing and recently bought HDTV systems. You may have picked up on my scepticism over 3D, for more detail on this subject you might want to check out my article on 3DTV Technology Uses & Applications aka Should I Buy A 3DTV?

So cinemas have clearly lost that “unique selling point” of having 3D content, whether it was good or bad and with the current state of the economy are people really going to pay out such large sums of money just for a couple of hours entertainment at the cinema?

As people’s ‘home cinema’ setups get better and it’s more affordable to simply wait a few months and buy the DVD or Blu-Ray or even wait a few more months to see it in high definition on the likes of Sky HD as part of your regular TV subscription. I believe cinema chains will find it harder to get people through the doors, the last thing they should be doing at this point is alienating customers.

I’m sure the day is coming where Direct-to-DVD/Blu-Ray/HD Set Top Box will not be used as a negative term for the quality of the content, but rather be a standard option for the of distribution of new films…and for that reason alone, cinemas should be worried!

What’s your view on Vue Cinemas banning laptops and the cinema industry in general? Would you hand over expensive electronic equipment such as a laptop or mobile phone to watch the latest movie?

Or would you rather sit in the comfort of your own home watching the latest Hollywood releases and bypass the ‘cinema showing window’ entirely?

Published On: September 23rd, 2010 / Categories: Tech Commentary, Technology, TV/Movies /

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