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INTERVIEW: 85A on Cargo, Camera…ACTION!

June 11, 2014
CargoCameraAction

Cargo, Camera…ACTION! launch party at The Art School, Glasgow, 26/02/04

On Saturday 26 July, 2014, Glasgow Film presents “a day-long cinematic spectacular” on the Clyde, a celebration of cinema and the city in collaboration with local arts collective 85A. After a launch event at Glasgow Film Festival 2014, 85A are gearing up for a multimedia, multi-disciplinary extravaganza that looks likely to eclipse their celebrated previous projects Chernozem: Kino and Jan Švankmajer. I spoke to 85A ahead of the event and for a “faceless, non-hierarchical organisation”, they were very forthcoming. An edited version of this interview first appeared on the Glasgow Film website

Can you explain what 85A is, and introduce the key players?

We’re a group of multi-disciplinary artists who love to put on the kind of events that we’re personally craving, but that really just aren’t about in Glasgow. It generally involves generous servings of loud music, puppetry, masked performances, irreverent audience interaction, site-specific logistics, and a lot of film too. We have created 19 shows since 2008. There are about 12 core members, with many more associates that join in on a project-by-project basis. We also like to produce work from within a faceless, non-hierarchical organisation.

How did 85A come to be involved in this project?

Glasgow Film approached us to be part of their bid for Festival 2014. After the brilliant 2012 Glasgow Film Festival event that 85A organised at the Glue Factory – which featured over 10 site specific micro-cinemas showcasing the work of Czech animator Jan Švankmajer - it was a great chance to contribute to the brief that aimed to transform underused locations along the Clyde promenade into film screening spaces…an opportunity not to be missed.

85A have got a bit of history with building cinemas in unexpected sites. Our very first project was the screening of Stellan Rye’s Der Student von Prag with a live, musical re-scoring, in a disused ice cream van garage in Partick. We went on take over The Old Hairdressers, well before it re-opened as a functioning bar, for our submarine spectacular, The Orzel Film Performance. We had audiences of 50 packed inside an elaborate cardboard set of a WWII Polish sub, all the while watching this 1958 masterpiece as a live crew of musicians and folly artists created the soundscape.

Participating artists have been reportedly been asked to look through a cinematic lens at the city’s history of shipbuilding and shipping, and at the history of sport throughout the city. How did you approach this? What kind of technical challenges has it presented?

The main challenge of this project was to conceive an outdoor cinema event on a day where it wouldn’t be dark until 10pm. As such, we didn’t want to keep the audience in a tent or sit in front of a big LED screen. Glasgow Film had secured the amazing Clyde amphitheatre location for the event and we wanted to create a buzzing, celebratory atmosphere along the busy promenade. The solution was to turn the brief on its head and look at cinematography through a performative lens, and create a show about a madcap film shoot, enabling us to look under the skin of cinema and the shipping history without using a screen.

With the Clyde as a backdrop, the cargo ship was an obvious choice for the set as it created a natural link from the city’s history to many classic sea themed movies. At nightfall, our ship will become a spectacular cinema space with a two-hour screening programme. Between 10pm  and 12am we will be complementing the commissioned artists’ films (by Chris Leslie and Torstem Lauschman) with some amazing documentaries from the Clyde’s shipbuilding heydays – featuring equal measures of brilliant footage of human endeavour and mighty industry. We’ll also be showing early work by New Orleans filmmaking collective Court 13 (makers of Beasts of The Southern Wild) who worked with the remains of Hurricane Katrina as a set, and destitute communities as actors – it’s great stuff.

What kind of research did you undertake, and where did you draw inspiration from?

As a group, our filmic influences are diverse, including Expressionism; surrealism; documentary filmmaking; indie productions; low budget horror, and the likes. We’re not into blockbusters or anything featuring bearded wizards with pointy hats. Between 2011 and 2013 the whole collective intermittently worked on producing Judd Brucke’s Chernozem, an industrial-horror tale featuring a man with a factory for a head who escapes a chain gang…filmed entirely on VHS with a degraded black and white finish. We collectively scoured Glasgow’s iconic wastelands as a makeshift film crew, filming, lighting, making sets and costumes, directing and acting in equal measure… sometimes with often highly comical or disastrous consequences along the way – a thoroughly better process to learn about cinema than mechanically going through the 100 Must See Movies Before You Die! Setting up a tracking shot or your own SFX really gives you a new understanding of filmmaking. This first-hand experience became the core of our research and it’s this appreciation of cinematography that we’d like to share with our audiences this summer.  Cargo, Camera…ACTION! is an ode to low-budget filmmaking and taps into the electric atmosphere of the film set environment. As the project developed, we picked up on some seminal anecdotes, such as the famous Werner Herzog vs Klaus Kinski bust ups; the genius of special effects inventors like Ray Harryhausen; or even the real life production drama about Terry Gilliam, Lost in La Mancha. But we’re also commenting on the current state of film and TV with game show style audience interaction and invasive product placement funding strategies.

How does it tie thematically and practically to your previous projects, if at all, and how does it differ?

We placed particular emphasis on remaining true to our style for this show despite being part of such a mainstream event, so Cargo, Camera…ACTION! will be 85A through and through, in all its glorious madness. Having developed in the visual arts scene, we’re very aware of how elitist and alienating high art can be, but we’re fighting against this and are thrilled to be planting the black and white 85A flag right in the middle of the commonwealth promenade, bringing the party to a truly diverse audience.

How do you anticipate audience participation or interaction at events and how do you deal with it if it’s not built-in to the event?

Whether pushed along in trolleys, given wheatgrass haircuts, asked to pelt our giant puppets with seed bombs or crushed into a trap door, audiences truly have an active role at every 85A show. For Cargo, Camera…ACTION!, the audience will be cast as film extras for our pretend shoot, and in turn, will be required to help during some of the scenes with some very important tasks! And whilst waiting to get ‘on set’, the extras will be able to relax at our “backstage” cafe where the film shoot atmosphere continues, including: a tasty catering trailer, crew bar and an all day “wrap party”; DJs playing cinematic soundtracks and games; and a roaming make-up crew with talent scouts who will be preparing our fine extras respectively before their big scene.

Can you tell us more about the “upbeat global sounds of dynamic bands and DJs”, and how they fit into the whole event?

All of the bands will provide the focus for the show and are integral to its narrative. Our daytime show will run five times – featuring a different soundtrack every time – with the musical bill being shared by some of the most exciting Glasgow bands in a variety of styles: Dub champions Mungo’s Hi-Fi with special guests New Dehli’s Reggae Rajas; newly formed surf-rockers Halfrican; veteran seven-piece ska outfit Capone & the Bullets; musical maestros Gypsy Romania from Govanhill; and hypno-psych voodoo groovers Golden Teacher. Basically, audiences can see the show with the soundtrack of their own musical choice! And in the Café Bar, the groovy, eclectic and cinematic soundtracks will continue with the exceptional host DJ Afrodeesia and guests.

How do you recommend audiences prepare for the performances (and to be “flabbergasted”)?

Even though this will be the height of the summer, this is an outdoor event in Glasgow, so we’re preparing for a “rain or shine” show, and audiences should do the same. To make the most of this sea voyage as well, outfits in tones of blue/green/grey/black/white are highly recommended. However, once the filming starts, anything can happen – so all our extras should be ready for their action packed 15 mins of fame!

Tickets for Cargo Camera…ACTION! are free and go on sale on Thursday 26 June. Keep checking glasgowfilm.org for details.

www.glasgowfilm.org/cargo

www.85a.org.uk

New Stockists

June 10, 2014

I’m happy to announce that Physical Impossibility‘s newest stockist is Forbidden Planet, Glasgow – a shop I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in ever since I was a knee-high to a Mr Mxyzptlk cut-out, so it’s very cool to see the zine on their shelves. We’ve also recently begun selling from Glasgow Film Theatre, the Filmhouse in Edinburgh and NewBridge in Newcastle. In Berlin, you can pick up a copy at Motto and in New York, the zine is stocked at Forbidden Planet in Manhattan and Desert Island in Brooklyn. Alternatively, you can pick up a copy by post from me, here. You shouldn’t pay more than £4, or the translated equivalent, anywhere.

Issue three, Copywrongs, is almost finished and we’re dead excited about it – all the contributions so far are fantastic. We’re hoping to send it to print in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you’d like to stock Physical Impossibility, or suggest a stockist, please get in touch via sean@physicalimpossibility.com.

Current Stockists:

Filmhouse, Edinburgh

88 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh, EH3 9BZ
(0131) 228 2688

Glasgow Film Theatre, Glasgow

12 Rose St, Glasgow, Lanarkshire G3 6RB

(0141) 332 6535

Good Press, Glasgow

Based at Mono, 12 Kings Court, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1 5RB

(And from Good Press’s online store, here)

Forbidden Planet, Glasgow

168 Buchanan St, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1 2LW
(0141) 331 1215

NewBridge Books, Newcastle

The NewBridge Project, PopUp Initiative cic, Norham House, 12 New Bridge St West, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8AW

(0191) 232 8975

Desert Island, New York

540 Metropolitan Ave  Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 388-5087

Forbidden Planet, New York

832 Broadway New York, NY 10003
(212) 473-1576

(And from Forbidden Planet’s online store, here)

Motto, Berlin

Skalitzer Straße 68, 10997 Berlin, Germany

+49 (0)30 48816407

zine_chrysler

Photo by Sarah Amy Fishlock

EIFF 2014: A Closer Look

June 7, 2014
Dane de Haan and Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth (dir Jeff Baena, 2014)

Dane de Haan and Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth (dir Jeff Baena, 2014)

Since my first thoughts on the EIFF 2014 programme, tickets have gone on sale and the final countdown to this year’s festival has begun. Also, I’ve been looking beyond the familiar, jump-out names to interrogate the line-up a wee bit more rigourously. Here’s my second thoughts:

Welcome to New York (dir Abel Ferrara, 2014)

21/06, 17:30 at Dominion 1 | 28/06, 17:30 at Dominion 1

Gérard Depardieu and 'friends' in Welcome To New York (dir Abel Ferrara, 2014)

Gérard Depardieu and ‘friends’ in Welcome To New York (dir Abel Ferrara, 2014)

Abel Ferrara’s latest is definitely coming to EIFF, but exact details await confirmation (UPDATED 09/06). The film’s debut at Cannes provoked a pleasing storm of controversy, which didn’t need too much dressing up by the Daily Mail, who frothed, “Guests at the party, which was held on the beach, were each given a ‘dirty sex kit’ (note the initials, DSK) containing a whip, handcuffs and a condom. Men wearing hotel bathrobes encouraged them to sip a ‘Viagra cocktail’ or pose for a photographer on a huge bed bearing a sign that read ‘Love Hotel’.” DSK, there, standing for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, from whose infamy Ferrara’s film is said to derive (he’s apparently suing for libel). Ferrara, famous for Driller Killer (1979), Ms 45 (1981), King Of New York (1990) and Bad Lieutenant (1992) hasn’t made a truly great film in a long while, although he’s been operating on the fringes since the late 1990s and arguably hasn’t had a fair shake, critically or commercially, since the underrated The Funeral (1996). According to the Guardian, Welcome To New York is, “shameless, outrageous…an orgiastic vampire tale about a creature of the night who can’t face the mirror.” So, basically: tick, tick tick. And maybe it’s wishful thinking, but is an appearance from Ferrara really out of the question?

The Anomaly (dir Noel Clarke, 2014)

19/06, 18:10 at Cineworld 5 | 20/06, 18:10 at Cineworld 5

This is the world premiere of Noel Clarke’s new sci-fi actioner. Clarke’s arguably made a better fist of his post-Doctor Who career than any of his co-stars, David Tennant, Billie Piper or even Christopher “Oh, yeah, that was him in Thor 2” Eccleston transitioning from portraying sidekick Mickey Smith to writing, directing and producing his own films. The Anomaly is the third of those, after Kidulthood (dir Menhaj Huda, 2006) sequel Adulthood (2008) and crime thriller 4.3.2.1 (2010). Clarke also wrote Fast Girls (dir Regan Hall, 2011) and Storage 24 (dir Johannes Roberts, 2012), the latter of which, an apparently underrated (I’ve not seen it myself) sci-fi horror, is possibly the most relevant to The Anomaly. I’m cautiously optimistic about this because, while I hope and want to like it, expectations are certainly tempered by the facts that a) Clarke is yet to match his industriousness with a real break-out hit, b) somehow lost in the shuffle Lost star Ian Somerhalder is in the co-lead role and c) the rest of the cast list is filled out with Luke “the new Andrew Wilson” Hemsworth and EIFF stalwart Niall Greig Fulton.

The Skeleton Twins (dir Craig Johnson, 2014)

21/06, 18:00 at Cineworld 8 | 22/06, 20:45 at Cineworld 8

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins (dir Craig Johnson, 2014)

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins (dir Craig Johnson, 2014)

Craig Johnson’s follow-up to the mumblecore-y True Adolescents (2009) reunites Saturday Night Live co-stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, to exploit their comedic chops in a more serious set-up, à la fellow SNL alums Will Forte and Adam Sandler in Nebraska (dir Alexander Payne, 2013) and Punch Drunk Love (dir Paul Thomas Anderson,  2002), respectively. Resportedly directly inspired by the likes of The Squid And The Whale (dir Noah Baumbach, 2005) and You And Me And Everyone We Know (dir Miranda July, 2005), according to director Johnson, The Skeleton Twins is “Character-driven, funny and yet a little melancholy.” The first EIFF screening is also the European premiere.

Life After Beth (dir Jeff Baena, 2014)

26/06, 18:20 at Cineworld 8 | 27/06 20:30 at Filmhouse 1

The directorial debut of I Heart Huckabees co-writer Jeff Baena, this is one of a couple of notable zombie features at EIFF this year, the other being Sabu’s Miss Zombie (2013). Dane de Haan’s Zach gets a second chance with his recently-departed ex when she returns to life just a little more brain-hungry. Not a million miles away from 2013′s Warm Bodies (dir Jonathan Levine) in subject matter, Life After Beth‘s cast is what makes it really interesting. Aside from de Haan stretching himself as a romantic lead (will he be able to tone down the twitchy-creepy?), you have Parks And Recreation‘s Aubrey Plaza as the titular ex-ex (“Dane was wonderful. I felt like we had good chemistry from the start. It wasn’t hard to lick his face and try to eat him.”) and a smorgasbord of comedy talent filling out the cast, including Anna Kendrick, John C Reilly and Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat.

Hardkor Disko (dir Krzysztofa Skoniecznego, 2014)

26/06, 20:15 at Filmhouse 1 | 27/06, 18:00 at Cineworld 11

It’s probably the hipster in me that likes the look of Hardkor Disko, the debut feature from music video director Krzysztofa Skoniecznego, and if it falls on the wrong side of Our Day Will Come (dir Romain Gavras, 2010) there’s a good chance it’ll be a drag to actually watch. On the other hand, I like a wildcard and the trailer promises sex, death and rock and roll. In case you’re wondering about the title, according to writer-director Skoniecznego, “Hardkor is a word of our times which entered everyday slang meaning something surprising, brutal and ruthless but also something attractive and danger-provoking, connected with adrenaline. Disko on the other hand holds something from the past, it’s a word rather connected to the generation of our parents, it brings to the mind some kind of nostalgia.” The first screening at EIFF will also be the UK premiere.

And finally, a special mention for:

Cold In July (dir Jim Mickle, 2014)

20/06, 18:00 at Cineworld 8 | 23/06, 20:45 at Filmhouse 1

Based on the novel by cult author Joe R Lansdale (Bubba Ho-Tep, the Hap and Leonard series) and directed by Jim Mickle (Stake Land, We Are What We Are), Cold In July stars Sam Shepard, Don Johnson and a post-Dexter Michael C Hall. The pedigree is excellent and the trailer looks great, but it’s also on general release in July. Excepting a possible appearance by Johnson (also appearing in person at his Empire Hero Hangout on 21/06), the EIFF screenings are kind of more previews than anything else.

More to come, but remember to check out the programme for yourself here and take advantage of my EIFF trailer playlist here.

EIFF 2014 Trailer Binge

May 30, 2014

Here are all the trailers I’ve found so far for the films programmed at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014. The playlist is drawn from/limited to YouTube, so there are a number of trailers and clips lacking in English-language subtitles while others are missing entirely. Some of the missing trailers can be found on EIFF’s website; some, like Joanna Coates’ Hide And Seek, can be found on Vimeo and more again, including Opening Night Gala Hyena and Closing Night Gala We’ll Never Have Paris, don’t seem to have trailers at all yet.

I’ve also skipped, for various reasons, the shorts programme and most of the Black Box, John McGrath, Iranian Cinema and Dominik Graf strands. I’ll add to and edit the playlist as more or better quality clips become available. Even so, this playlist is an epic three hours and 16 minutes long and somehow exactly 100 videos strong. Enjoy!

EIFF 2014: First Thoughts

May 29, 2014

Gondry v Chomsky, Nic Cage and zombies! It can mean only one thing – the full programme for Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014, taking place from Wednesday 18th June until Sunday 29th June, has just been announced. Take a peek at the programme for yourself here. The beauty of EIFF is I can practically guarantee the best film I’ll see there will be a surprise, and a more thorough perusal of the brochure will bring out some more must-sees (check back later for a rundown of those!), but here’s what jumped out of this year’s programme at first glance. NB these are in order of first screening, not necessarily preference.

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (dir Michel Gondry, 2013)

20/06, 18:10 at Filmhouse 1 | 27/06, 20:30 at Odeon 2

The latest film from Michel Gondry after the fader broke off his whimsy controller with the tonally violent Mood Indigo is a documentary, the subtitle of which pretty much says it all: An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky. “The world is a very puzzling place,” offers Chomsky in the trailer, “If you’re not willing to be puzzled, you just become a replica of someone else’s mind.” I’m in!

Doc of the Dead (dir Alexandre O Philippe, 2014)

21/06, 20:45 at Cineworld 11 | 28/06, 18:15 at Odeon 2

From the director of The People vs George Lucas (2010), this is a documentary on the cultural onslaught of zombies since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead first snuck up and gnawed our collective neck. It features contributions from a stellar array of zombie experts, including Max Brooks (of World War Z and son of Mel fame), Bruce Campbell (scourge of the Deadites), Robert Kirkman (creator of The Walking Dead), Zombie Walk founder Thea Munster, Simon “Shaun of the Dead” Pegg and George “Romero Rules in both senses of the word” Romero. There’s actually a number of intriguing zombie films in the EIFF programme this year, but more on that later.

A Most Wanted Man (dir Anton Corbijn, 2014)

22/06, 18:00 at Cineworld 8 | 28/06, 20:45 at Cineworld 8

The sad countdown of Final Philip Seymour Hoffman Films continues with this John Le Carré adaptation from Control and The American director Anton Corbijn. Everyone in the cast appears to be competing for the Academy Award for Best Accent, but Hoffman seems a shoe-in for a posthumous win with a genuinely persuasive Germanic drawl.

Snowpiercer (dir Bong Joon-ho, 2013)

22/06, 20:20 at Cineworld 3 | 28/06, 20:15 at Cineworld 3

Bong Joon-Ho’s adaptation of French graphic novel Le Transperceneige could be better known at this point for the cuts apparently demanded by Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein before its US release. EIFF’s screening is a UK premiere, though, and appears to be all 126 minutes of the original edit. The most unwelcome side-effect of the Weinstein publicity is to imply Snowpiercer is some kind of hard-work arthouse trudge that’ll benefit by a few tweaks from a fat-handed moneytwat. Watch the trailer – you’ve got Captain America Chris Evans, bearded and action-ready in what will presumably be one of his final roles before moving behind the camera, Tilda Swinton following up her The Grand Budapest Hotel role with another performance in heavy, comedic make-up and most of all, the giant sci-fi conceit of a non-stop train housing mankind’s last survivors, forced into a class system onboard, and primed for all-out revolutionary war. Still, nothing that can’t be improved by the visionary director of The Gnomes’ Great Adventure (1987).

Joe (dir David Gordon Green, 2013)

25/06, 20:40 at Filmhouse 1 | 28/06, 18:00 at Filmhouse 1

David Gordon Green, perhaps most widely known for directing broad comedies like Pineapple Express (2008), Your Highness (2011) and The Sitter (also 2011) for the Apatow set, built his mainstream success upon an early string of films influenced (and even latterly executive produced) by Terrence Malick. Last year’s Paul Rudd-starring Prince Avalanche could be seen as a stepping stone back the way towards the more serious Joe. Or maybe Joe‘s the kind of unpredictable sidestep mastered by its star, the mercurial-if-mercurial-means-the-demonstration-of-two-facial-expressions-and-the-fierce-neverending-struggle-between-them Nic Cage. If Joe lives up to the promise of its trailer and reaches for the high water of their respective careers, this could be an above average Joe half decent.

A Fuller Life (dir Samantha Fuller, 2013)

26/06, 18:00 at Filmhouse 2 | 27/06, 16:30 at Filmhouse 3

Legendary director Sam Fuller’s daughter filmed a range of Hollywood names (including Jennifer Beals, Joe Dante, James Franco and Mark Hamill) reading through her father’s autobiography, A Third Face, in Fuller’s own office/archive “the shack.” Accompanied and illuminated by rare footage, this should be a fascinating and entertaining document of an incredible life – director of Pickup on South Street (1953), Shock Corridor (1963), The Big Red One (1980), White Dog (1982), he also wrote novels, won the Purple Heart and acted for Jean-Luc Godard, Dennis Hopper, Steven Spielberg and Wim Wenders. And though I’m not sure if it’ll get a mention in this doc, Fuller even took a starring role alongside Michael Moriarty in Larry Cohen’s A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987). That’s a real claim to fame.

That Guy Dick Miller (dir Elijah Drenner, 2014)

26/06, 20:00 at Filmhouse 2 | 27/06, 14:15 at Filmhouse 3

From Bucket of Blood (1959) to The Hole (2009), Dick Miller has been a familiar face to generations of moviegoers. He was a reliable stock actor for Roger Corman, and later a lucky charm for Corman alum Joe Dante, popping up in almost all of the latter’s films in some role or another. A classic know-the-face character actor, Dick Miller is also a B-movie icon par excellence, and I for one am thrilled at the prospect of getting to know Walter Paisley a bit better.

Emma Roberts in Palo Alto (dir Gia Coppola, 2014)

Emma Roberts in Palo Alto (dir Gia Coppola, 2014)

Finally, file these under curious for now: The Green Inferno, Eli Roth’s homage to the likes of Cannibal Holocaust debuted a distinctly underwhelming trailer, but may be worth a look nonetheless; Palo AltoGia “Nother” Coppola’s adaptation of James Franco’s novel, starring James Franco. No confirmation as yet on whether Franco has written, or indeed will sing, the theme tune; Tony Benn: Will & Testament, a documentary portrait of an always engaging subject, filmed with Benn’s participation before his death in March; A Dangerous Gamethe documentary follow-up to the rage-inducing You’ve Been Trumped.

Check back soon for a more in-depth look at EIFF 2014!

Freedom of Seats (UPDATED)

May 13, 2014

Gremlins

Cineworld have decided to introduce allocated seating in their UK cinemas, reportedly from Friday 6th June, 2014. This is a terrible idea. This is nominally a film blog, so I’m not going to split hairs about what is and isn’t worth getting worked up over. However, since worse things certainly happen at sea, let’s keep it simple.

I have an Unlimited Card, which Cineworld recently upgraded to Premium by virtue of the fact I’d had it for a certain period of time. I love GFT (generally doesn’t allocate seats), have a lot of history with the Grosvenor (generally does) but regardless spend a lot of time in Cineworld – enough time to make my monthly Unlimited Card direct debit seem excellent value for money. Nevertheless, I reckon this is a dumb, unnecessary move, and I’m not alone. The change was brought to my attention on Twitter, via fellow film geek, Ross Maclean:

Excellent question.  Sean Wilson over at Cineworld posted a blog explaining their reasoning for the change. It goes a little something like this:

Allocated seating is coming soon to Cineworld. Guarantee your seats when you book online or in the cinema itself.

And there are additional benefits to allocated seating too:

1) Peace of mind

Select your seats in advance and arrive at the cinema knowing your seats are reserved.

2) Sit with your friends

If you have booked as a group, you can be sure that you will be able to sit together.

3) Enjoy a more relaxed journey to your seat

With allocated seating you no longer need to compete with other customers for available seats in the auditorium. Plus, if you arrive late you won’t have to search in the dark looking for available seats.

4) Less queues, less congestion

More customers booking online in advance, means less people queuing in the cinema. Simply turn up with your reserved seats already booked, and print out your tickets from our ATM’s or go straight through to the cinema screen with a smartphone to display your ticket.

5) More choice

With allocated seating, you can choose where to sit; you can also choose the screening time with the best available seats.

Stay tuned to the blog for more details.

Sean kind of avoids explaining why this is getting brought in, but let’s look at the “additional benefits,” briefly, one by one.

1) This should appeal to me, because I’m one of those people who insists on sitting middle-middle, infuriating and bemusing anyone who accompanies me. However, given Cineworld cinemas are fairly democratic in the layout of their seating, it’s really never been an issue for me to sit somewhere else. Actually, to be fair, fuck sitting in the front row for something in the line of Transformers – that happened and I could barely follow what was going on. The proper take-away from that, though, is arrive in plenty of time to get half-decent seats and then it’s not an issue. Arrive late and you take your chances. Why cater to people who can’t be fussed arriving on time? Maybe the answer lies in those “still time to buy yourself a Coke”  adverts.

2) Never been a problem. And again, this works just fine managed by the audience – arrive on time, get yourself a seat together. Those that breenge in at the last minute should have to sit separately.

3) “A more relaxed journey to your seat” is a euphemism for “rock up when you feel like it”, which to me means two things. One, more people arriving just as the film starts or, having misjudged their clever advert-skipping, once it’s underway. So far so irritatingly disruptive. Two, finding people sitting in your seats regardless, which, obviously that will happen. So, a relaxed journey to your seat, followed by a terse conversation and then potentially fisticuffs. “Plus if you arrive late, you won’t have to search in the dark looking for seats” – really? Because everyone instinctively knows the seating layout.  This seems like a key flaw in the proposed change - allocated seating requires ushers – to show you to your seat, to intercede in any ‘discussions’ that arise and to resolve inevitable problems with double-booking (or mistaken booking, e.g. when people get confused over the layout and book front row seats when they thought they were getting back row). Will Cineworld be hiring more staff to meet this requirement? Seems unlikely.

4) “Less queues, less congestion.” This is bullshit filler on the list, because it already happens with online booking. I suspect more people booking in advance will only mean more and bigger queues at the lobby ATMs.

5) “More choice.” Two of the most irritating things in a cinema are someone much taller than you sitting in front of you and people being loud or obnoxious (in a variety of ways). Ordinarily, you can just move – or ask them to move if they’ve blithely picked the only seat in an empty screen which obscures your view. Not anymore!

There are generally pros and cons to Cineworld’s laissez-faire attitude. I don’t love it when the projection goes wrong and it takes 15 minutes for anyone to notice much less do anything about it once a punter tracks down an usher to tell them. Allocated seating also makes sense for events – e.g. theatre, sports, opera – and that includes any satellite events hosted or live-streamed by Cineworld. But good seats being available to those who arrive on time and sit through all the fucking adverts doesn’t strike me as a problem that needs addressing. Anyway, those are my first thoughts – it isn’t broken, so why fix it? Maybe this is only an issue for geeks like me who spend all their money on films and plenty of their spare time at the flicks. I’d love to hear from anyone that thought it was a good idea, and why.

UPDATE:

It seems to be almost upon us – a trip to see X-Men: Days of Future Past this weekend provided a fun demonstration of why allocated seating is such a wonderful idea in theory and practice. Three of us Unlimited Card holders wanted to see the movie and elected for a 19:50 3D screening because the preferable 2D screening at 20:00 was, according to the website, allocated seating. On arrival, we realised we’d screwed up by taking the confirmation code down wrong so we couldn’t collect our tickets at the machines – so far, so our dumb problem – but then noted that according to the screens in the foyer and the Cineworld app, that there was no 19:50 screening. Perhaps we’d totally fucked up. The guy on the desk tried to find our booking via the main card we booked with, but couldn’t. He reckoned maybe we’d booked for Parkhead by accident – we felt like idiots, but then that’s not totally unusual. We were rebooking for the 21:00 when I noted there wasn’t a 19:50 at Parkhead either. Upon hearing that, it occurred to one of the guys behind the desk (by then there were four staff members creasing their brows over our impossible problem) that they’d actually moved the screening to 20:00.

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So then we had our tickets, and though we were technically allocated seats (see above), we were to ignore them. The guy who finally sorted us out also confirmed that allocated seating is coming in on Friday 20th June (there was also  lovely A4 poster placed behind the ticket desk, demanding precisely nobody’s attention). I quipped that I’d be back then with my placard, and he replied somewhat tersely, and with a discernible hint of exasperation, “Just book online.” Upstairs, I somewhat dickishly asked the guy taking the tickets if I was seated in K12 (see above), and he confirmed that I was indeed.

There’s also now a Facebook page, Say No To Allocated Seating, gathering some traction (or at least the latest information) and providing a space for all the negative chatter about Cineworld’s plans. They have this to offer by way of explanation for why Cineworld are bringing it in, beyond the mealy-mouthed benefits laid out in their blog, above:

These are the facts as I understand them:-

1) The new Chief Executive is the driving force behind both Allocated Seating and Star Seating. He thinks that it is a good idea based on what happens in Eastern European cinemas.

2) Allocated Seating will be brought in despite the negative feedback from the General Managers and Regional Managers who realise the pitfalls and the problems it will cause.

3) Head Office is constantly changing the instructions on how this new policy will be carried out. For example, it was initially agreed that the main lights would be left on until the main feature starts thus facilitating the customer in finding their allocated seat. This now won’t happen.

4) After the initial 8 week period when staff will be in each screen to help seat customers, there will be no extra money available to enable this happen and cinemas will not be employing more staff to aid us either.

5) The new Allocated Seating policy has not been heavily advertised and as such the cinemas anticipate a lot of problems on site when it is introduced on 13th June. Long queues are expected.

6) There will not be any seating plans available for customers to see nor will we be able to view the seating plan on the screen at the box office etc. Staff will be instructed to ask “front, middle or rear”. (Their system may well allocate the actual seat).

7) Allocated Seating will mean that more people will rush to book in advance and as rules state that if a screen has over 20 seats sold the film can’t be moved to another screen or cancelled. For example – this means that many cinemas could not have added Pulp Fiction screens after the first sold out – customers lose out again.

8) Managers are against this but because there have been so many redundancies in recent years, they are too frightened to speak out.

9) Staff and Management realise the new policy will upset Unlimited Customers in particular but are powerless to do anything.

10) Although the new seating has already been purchased, instead of going ahead with a full roll out, the new Star Seating will be trialled in only 5 sites.

To be continued, I guess!

I Love Bad Movies #6

May 11, 2014

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The latest issue of the I Love Bad Movies zine is here, and it’s the best news to come out of New York since I heard Viva Herbal Pizzeria on 2nd Avenue had unexpectedly shut. Admittedly, the bar was pretty low, because that was legitimately disappointing news. Nevertheless, #6 of the always awesome zine is here, this time featuring some writing by yours truly. Readers of the Physical Impossibility zine will be familiar with the editors of I Love Bad Movies, Matt Carman and Kseniya Yarosh, who contributed writing and illustration respectively to the Popcorn Droppers issue. They were also instrumental in getting Physical Impossibility stocked in New York, and are just generally super cool folks.

Volume Six of I Love Bad Movies is food-themed and features writing from – deep breath – Claudia Eve Beauchesne, Dan Berube, Matt Bird, Cristina Cacioppo, John Carman, Matt Carman, Matt Desiderio, Eric Epstein, Ezra Fox, Malaka Gharib, Kate Hutchinson, Guy J Jackson, James Jajac, Eleanor Kagan, M Sweeney Lawless, Kevin Maher, Laura Jayne Martin, Dan McCoy, Mary Regan, Claire Sanders, Bob Satuloff, Justin Shatraw, Rick Sloane, Chris Smith, Jay Stern, Matt Sullivan, Stuart Wellington, Timmy Williams and Kseniya Yarosh, not to mention illustrations by Erin Gallagher, Greg Rebis,  James Jajac, Mary Regan, Claire Sanders and Stuart Wellington.

As you may glean from the above list, with over 70 pages of content there’s more than plenty material to get your teeth into. My contribution, “A History of Bad Movies & Bad Snacks,” explores the causal link between terrible food and terrible movies. There’s also an essay on J&B Whiskey in Giallo movies, another entitled “Unfortunate Cinematic Sandwiches “, and a look at Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977). AND a recipe to make your own version of The Stuff! I’m thrilled to be involved with this issue, and I can heartily recommend volumes 1 through 5, all of which are still available to buy.

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