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March 2012

The Innovation of Cinema?

Saturday, March 31, 2012 0

Undoubtedly, one of my favourite past times is a trip to the wonderful and perhaps only place on the planet that can transport you to just about anywhere that you can possibly imagine – the cinema!

Films are a great way escape the boundaries of reality and in my opinion there is no where better to experience a great story than at the cinema with a huge screen, great sound system, surrounded by others who are also there to share that experience and adventure of the characters on the screen.

For me, it really is a magical place.

But a couple of weeks ago, I really started to think about just how inconvenient the cinema actually is; most modern day multiplexes are located out of town, usually next to or near to a retail park, meaning that travel and parking is going to be a consideration of your trip – especially when you plan to see the latest blockbuster on the opening weekend.

Then, comes the pricing.  How did the cost of a movie ticket become so expensive?  I’m fortunate, in that I have a Cineworld cinema close to me, where I can sign up for their “Unlimited” card that allows me to see as many films as I wish, at any time, for £15 a month.  But when I first signed up for the card a good few years ago, it was only £10 month.  Why the 50% price increase, I can only speculate.

What’s more, that’s only half the story.  Look at the polar opposite of the cinema; the home entertainment system.  In the past 10 years, our home TV screen technology has exploded from flat screen TVs, to LCD/LED displays in high definition, with silky smooth audio and slick features.  The Internet, helped by games consoles and media centres, has spawned and created and then subsequently disrupted DVD outlets with the likes of LoveFILM, NetFlix, Blinkbox and a host of others where movies are available to be streamed into the home, on our expensive displays at the touch of a button. 

No travel required, no worry about parking and sold out movie theatres or the noisy kid behind you who insists on kicking the back of your chair.  The home entertainment business has evolved and changed to fit with our ever more connected lives – you don’t even need to be at home anymore as movies have been pushed to your tablet, laptop and phone devices (I’m not saying that movies should be watched on a phone, but its an option for some).

Meanwhile the movie theatre remains pretty much the same as it did 30 or 40 (perhaps more), years ago.  Yes, they’ve had to keep up with technology and fit more expensive and sophisticated projectors to keep up with the HD flat screens in our homes, but my question really is, what do they have left in their lockers to innovate to keep them around over the next 10 or even 20 years?

The last innovation that I can recall at the cinema is 3D technology.  However, even that has been done before (yes the innovation has been in bettering the technology, but its nothing original, but increases the cost of your ticket).  3D has reached the home too for those who enjoy that type of thing.

I’ve recently read about some cinema chains installing rumble packs on the back of some of their seats to give movie goers what they are calling the 4D experience – something the gaming industry (which lets face it, is also in the same business of entertaining its punters in the same way as cinema), did a long time ago to immerse its players into the experience they saw on the screen.

Where is the next innovation in cinema?  What is the next technology or strategy that could change the cinema forever and invite more through their doors and into that magical place that can take you to places that you can sometimes only imagine?

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Perhaps I’m wrong and cinema doesn’t need to innovate further beyond what they already offer us – a good story and a magical experience?  Maybe keeping it simple really is the answer, but for that to happen, the price point needs to be tweaked as they do battle with your advanced home entertainment systems and on demand services.

The argument that the cinema is a social place was made to me as I discussed this topic with others; where else would people take their date if the cinema no longer exists?  Where else would you go before/after a good meal with you friends?  Would their closure be an even bigger problem in a society that is already losing their shopping experiences to the Internet?

A quick scour across the Internet shows that daters no longer want to see movies; drinks, meals, activities and places to get to know one another are the replacement for sitting with a stranger in a darkened room for 2 hours with no interaction. 

Only society can provide the answers for these questions, but as the Internet offers us more choice and more options, to me the answer is pretty clear.

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All it takes is for Hollywood or a big brand studio to figure out how to bypass the cinema to make money and disrupt the entire cinema industry.  One day it will happen and only then will we have our answers. 

Its either that or cinema theatres need to find that innovative draw for their movie going customers.  Someone pass the popcorn, this will be an interesting one to watch…..

F1: 2012 Frustrations Have Already Started…

Saturday, March 17, 2012 0

The first F1 Qualifying session of 2012 has just took place and I have to admit that I’m sitting here now with so many thoughts – unfortunately, none of them all that great.

As a Ferrari fan, there is no other word to be used other than ‘disappointment’.  Fernando appeared to give it his all, but a mistake and a wheel on the grass cut the session short.  Prior to that, his lap times were quite good, but it is clear that the car is struggling for grip and ultimately, grid position was never going to be spectacular.

Looking across the garage and Felipe Massa appeared to only struggle every time he ventured onto the track with his car.  Suffering with the same problems at Alonso with finding grip, only without any competitive lap time to show a glimmer of potential’ even with Fernando sat out of Q2, Massa wasn’t able to challenge.

Lots of work to do over the remainder of the season; Italy will not let Ferrari perform like that and if it does continue, I can well believe that Felipe Massa and Technical Director Pat Fry will be searching for alternative employment come the season closer, if not before.

But it wasn’t all about Ferrari today; the transfer of the broadcast from BBC to Sky F1 is a huge change for the sport and I’m not left with good feelings on this aspect either.  The shows anchor – Simon Procter – is clearly no Jake Humphreys when it comes to guiding the viewer through the show.  Meanwhile in the commentary box Crofty seemed to dominate the brilliant Martin Brundle.  Over the winter period I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Brundle’s commentary and technical insight, but today it felt as if he was back alongside the irreplaceable Murray Walker.

The broadcast aside, after all those problems will solve themselves over the rest of the season as the team gels.  My frustration lies more with the lack of features I’m more used to; watching on Sky Go the “Live” broadcast was around 40 seconds plus behind the real time lap time feed provided by f1.com, it was like watching the past, I knew everything that was about to happen before it happened.  The BBC F1 Driver Tracker was thoroughly missed – if the BBC and F1 sites can do real time on the web, why are Sky so far behind?  I don’t remember the iPlayer ever being over 40 seconds behind the live broadcast in a sport so dependant on time and tenths of seconds.

Every time the Sky team cut to the “Sky Pad” a little bit of me died inside…..its great that they’ve come up with this concept of being able to demonstrate and show detailed analysis, but I couldn’t help but feel that the online technology available to the fans has been sacrificed and its a backwards step for F1’s die-hard.

It pains me that last seasons BBC F1 team are no more and that the BBC let their F1 coverage get away from themselves so easily.  Yes they lost it because they ultimately couldn’t afford to keep it any more, but if I were BBC Director General, I would have done everything in my power to have found a way to not lose F1, even if that meant cancelling Eastenders! 

F1 2012 is frustrating me already and I can only hope that it can get better from here and my racing mind calms and these frustrations dissipate. 

On the plus side though, at least it appears that Red Bull and Vettel aren’t going to run way with the championship this season – I just wished that it were Ferrari capitalising on it.  Here’s hoping and keeping the faith – FORZA FERRARI.

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