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Picture House and The Future Of Cinema In The UK

I've just written this blog - shootingpeople.org/blog/?p=4504 - about reactions to the sale of the Picture House chain of cinemas to Cineworld. Many people I spoke to about it suggest that this is just an expression of a trend towards a certain type of cinema experience.

How do you feel about the Picture House deal? More importantly, is there a cinema that draws you back time after time, regardless of the movie? What matters about going to the cinema for you? Carrot cake or nachos? Or does that miss the point...

  • Personally it makes no difference as there is no Picture House or Cineworld anywhere near me so I've no experience of either. BUT... the reason I know there's a chain of cinemas called Cineworld is the regularity with which I read about independent British films whose theatrical release is limited to Cineworld venues. They do seem to provide these limited releases a lot (for films that those of us stuck with Odeons and Showcases will never have the chance to see). On the other hand, I've never heard of Picture House. So on that basis, the take-over sounds like a good thing (although it still won't directly affect me).

    5 years ago
  • Your mysterious projection friend got it spot-on, Ben - the experience of going to most of the picturehouses is sometimes as alienating and sausage-factory-like as a multiplex. There may be a cafe instead of a popcorn counter, but it's still based around getting people in to have a chat, a drink, and some artisan hummous rather than watching a film. The watching-a-film bit is the embarrassing madwoman in the attic which you try and hide away from the people having £6 pints in the bar.
    But that cynicism aside, actually I don't care, there's still lots of good indie cinemas in London, and nationally there's lots of interesting independent screenings happening. People in UK indie film are disproportionately obsessed with Picturehouse when the majority of film viewing takes place elsewhere, especially online or on DVD.
    Obsess instead over getting more films distributed, and more indie venues being supported.

    5 years ago
  • Well in Brighton we have both a Cineworld and the Duke of Yorks so we can only pray that they would intend to keep the D of Y as the art house it is. There would be local demonstrations if they didn't! The building is now over 100 years old I doubt they would get permission any to make other changes. I now wonder if there is a connection between this news and the plans for a second screen at the Komedia?

    5 years ago
  • I was missing the little cinema round the corner. We lack of small cinemas in an estate or residential area but... I should not say 'we'.

    Probably people can't careless as long as they have the DVD. It is a question of culture. In France, going to the cinema is important and popular. I reckon it is as important as politics for a discussion at your work place.
    I am very lucky to live next door to Reading University cinema which shows not only blockbuster films but also the "others" films (from festival or quality films). Bracknell film Society too is excellent but a bit out of reach for me. The answer is Films Societies. The problem is the price of a projector.

    5 years ago
  • This is the first i've heard of the takeover and as long as it's just a business decision and nothing much changes i don't mind. However, as a Brixton resident i love the Ritzy Picturehouse cinema and i've been priveleged to see Errol Morris do a Q&A of his documentary "Tabloid", which is brilliant and i really like the atmosphere of the place. It's somewhere to meet people, go for a coffee and a film and i hope that doesn't change.

    5 years ago
  • In danger of being too specific, I work for a certain multiplex that has recently bought the Picture House chain and from my perspective it's one of the worst things that could be happening at the moment. Yes, this chain does have good qualities (distribution of british/bollywood/international cinema) but, in contrast, the business ethic that they employ is completely against the grain of what makes good cinema. Namely, they will remove all the skilled projectionists and put their management team on a meagre course to "learn" how to use DCP. This will undoubtedly backfire repeatedly (as it already does in the multiplexes) with delayed/out of focus/distorted aspect ratios to name but a few of the problems that regularly occur - lowering the overall quality of the cinema-goers experience nationally. On top of this, they will overhire employees on zero hour contracts and place them in a see-saw financial position, resulting in a bitter and badly run environment for everyone. Prices will regularly increase and every time a big movie even hints at doing well, they'll stick it in every screen, eliminating any chance of an independent movie getting the chance it deserves.

    5 years ago
  • I think living in London makes you spoilt for choice of what cinema to go to, but there is a couple of Picturehouses in my top 5. Namely the Ritzy and Hackney, part of that is the people who work there being really happy and friendly. The cinema's aren't perfect but their drinks and snacks being nicer are as much a part of it as the films. Not forgetting the really comfy seats!
    Regionally there's a lot of small towns that would be devastated if their local Picturehouse changed, a sanctuary for cinephiles out of London where there isn't an abundance of Independent Cinemas.
    There's only 1 cinema in my hometown and it's been a Cineworld since the early 2000's when it pushed the only indie out(sob). I've never set foot in any other Cineworld due to how awful that one is, and have countless stories of friends with awful working experiences.

    5 years ago
  • Having worked in both multiplex and 'art-house' cinemas, I'm inclined to agree with Simon Dymond. To give Cineworld their due, they are marginally better than their multiplex rivals in terms of breadth of programming and treatment of staff. However, you still see the same phenomenon of disinterested and lazy staff that is typical when a big company treats their employees as an endlessly renewable resource and aren't prepared to shell out anything to retain good people. I disagree with the projectionist you quote - until recently, I went regularly to the Brixton Ritzy, Clapham Picture House et al, and the staff are noticeably better.

    My thoughts are going to be a bit scattergun as I think this a "wait-and-see" scenario (and also because a lot of points have already been made before). My instinct is that Cineworld will inevitably try and impose more of their management ethos on the Picture House chain, which can only be a bad thing!

    Cineworld have a load of new soulless multiplexes, but also have a scattering of some historic and beautiful picture palaces. You only need to look at the Cineworld Haymarket or Fulham Road to see that their managements of these assets has been appalling. One thing, I think, Picture House do really well is keep the character of the buildings, so I can only hope that Cineworld don't change things on this front.

    Another thought, which has already been touched on, is whether Picture House has actually been an "art house" cinema at all in recent years? I spoke to the programmer of one of their main rivals and he was adamant that Picture Houses were not art house cinemas. I can see what he means: as noted, they do show a lot of the blockbusters and often you have to trek to a genuine independent cinema to see films that a few years back would have been automatic Picture House fare.

    5 years ago

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