New Zealand’s Worst Cinema?
We were down in Whakatane over the weekend and had the rare opportunity of babysitters so that my wife and I could go to the cinema and a catch a film on the big screen. It had been a while since we’d been to Whakatane’s cinema 5, the last film adventure we had there was over the 2003 Christmas holidays when we managed to wrap up the Matrix trilogy. It seemed like a pretty decent cinema, especially for small town New Zealand.
I went down early to pick up tickets – I didn’t want to miss out and the film I had picked was only just in it’s second week of release, and still the number one film around the world. The foyer was pretty much as I remembered it, with a nice little cafe attached and some old school arcade machines. The actual cinema experience would have to wait till 8.30 however.
We arrived just after 8.00pm so we could get some snacks and secure a good seat – as there was no allocated seating. At 8.15 we made our way up to the main screen to find that we were the second couple to arrive, essentially meaning we had our pic of seats.
The first thing we noticed was the state of the chairs – the covers were so tatty and stretched that they were literally hanging over the front of the seat. Then when we selected our seats, middle of the row, towards the back, we realised something. These were exactly the same seats that they had back in 2003. They didn’t look like they had anything done to them. (which would explain the shocking state they were in).
The second thing we noticed is that they were the same size and and the same legroom as Auckland’s IMAX cinema. The third thing was the size of the screen. It made my 32in TV look big.
We quickly relocated to the front row. This at least made the screen look bigger, and give the added benefit of leg room. Fortunately the screen was set low to the floor so we wouldn’t have to endure sore necks afterwards.
Now don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t expecting the sheer luxury of Sylvia Park’s standard seating, but I would have expected seating that was comfortable and didn’t look like something even a student flat would throw out.
But Cinema 5 wasn’t finished with us quite yet.
Such was the state of the seating that I kept finding myself slipping off the seat and having to adjust my sitting positing through the entire film. Not exactly conducive to being able to immerse myself into the film experience.
Other factors that kept my mind firm in the realisation that I was watching something and not experiencing it was the fact that the film was being projected slightly off center, causing a small portion of the left side of the film to be projected on the curtain, with the accompanying distortion (and distraction). Add to this the bass, which seemed to be set too prominent, and caused the speakers to vibrate from time to time, all accumulated to destroy my experience of this anticipate flick.
But wait, there’s more.
During the climatic scenes of the film, the usher/person left to shut up, walked in and sat in the front row. That’s right, he opened the door, allowing bright light and movement (as well as the subtle noise of an opening door) to distract everyone in the normally dark room. Brilliant.
Then as soon as the credits were about to roll he hops up and runs to the back of the room, so he can enter the projection room and stop the film before the credits have finished.
This last bit may seem anal to complain about, but after watching a mind bending film – or any film that begs you to contemplate what you’ve just seen, it’s nice to sit for a while and think whilst the specifically chosen music accompanies the credits.
It’s also damn rude in my opinion not to give credit to everyone involved in such a huge undertaking, no matter what the film is. Let the credits roll, even if everyone has left would be my policy if I ran a cinema.
As for the less than half full cinema for a prime session of a major new release, maybe if Cinema 5 put some of it’s profits back into improving the cinema experience – even if it’s just upgrading the seats – they wouldn’t have so many of them empty.