Would you pay £40 to go to the cinema?

The Guardian - G2 - - Shortcuts - Guy Lodge

Ris­ing cinema prices is not a new con­cern – least of all in the West End of Lon­don, where it is stan­dard to pay the equiv­a­lent of a mid-priced restau­rant meal to see the block­buster of the week (add pop­corn at your peril). But Odeon Leicester Square, back in ac­tion af­ter an ex­ten­sive re­fur­bish­ment that – cru­cially – re­duced the num­ber of seats in its main au­di­to­rium, has taken bold new steps in test­ing the com­mit­ment of cin­ema­go­ers.

A sin­gle ticket to Mary Pop­pins Re­turns (pic­tured) could set you back as much as £40.75. With a favourable bud­get air­line ticket, you could pay less to fly to Barcelona and see the film there. Odeon was quick to point out that this is the top end of a pric­ing sys­tem that varies depending on the time, the day and the seat. Set­tle for the “Luxe Clas­sic” (as op­posed to the “Luxe Re­cliner” – ev­ery­thing is luxe at Odeon, you see) in the back row for a mati­nee show and you can ex­pe­ri­ence its souped-up sound and vi­sion for £10.75.

This is still not ex­actly a bar­gain, but Odeon ar­gues “it of­fers fan­tas­tic value com­pared to tick­ets for other pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions like the theatre, con­certs or live sports”. Which is all very well, ex­cept that pro­ject­ing a film on to a screen is not equiv­a­lent to live en­ter­tain­ment, either as an ex­pe­ri­ence or as a feat of labour – how­ever luxe the seat. At a time when chains such as Odeon and Vue are bat­tling al­lur­ingly cheap and con­ve­nient stream­ing ser­vices to re­tain their au­di­ences, is any film re­ally worth £40?

I have paid more to see some very for­get­table plays and a com­par­a­tive pit­tance for cinema ex­pe­ri­ences that will stay with me for ever, from Al­fonso Cuarón’s dizzily space-shift­ing Grav­ity in 3D to a lus­trously re­stored Lawrence of Ara­bia. If you are con­fi­dent that Mary Pop­pins Re­turns will blow your mind to that ex­tent, go forth and re­cline. But let’s not pre­tend the lux­ury cinema move­ment has been forged to ad­vance the art of cinema. Truly great films change your life at any price.

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