In Bicester there's a new cinema complex, run by Vue. This was long-promised (along with a bowling alley, so we're half way there) when the new shopping area was built, and the cinema itself isn't bad.
Typical for a modern unit, there are lots of smaller screens, each with standard comfy seats (set too close to the screen) and premium seats (set at perfect viewing distance). The sound system, at least in the room we were in, was loud, reasonably clear, powerful and fairly immersive, if you can cope with crashes and bangs much louder than reality (I suspect seeing a war film in there would be pretty realistic).
We arrived a few minutes late because, well, y'know how they like to show ads before a film, but they still hadn't started the showing until a little while after we took our seats: probably 10min after the scheduled start time. OK. Then they started the adverts encouraging everyone to get their phones out, open the Cinime (sinny me as they called it) app and play a 'game' of question and answer for 'prizes' that I would be embarrassed to play with 10 year olds. We had what felt like 15min of this (probably only 5, but it just never seemed to stop) before actually going on to about 20min of adverts and then back to another few min promoting Cinime again*.
Now as a kid I loved cinema, and the adverts used to be really well shot, great music, exciting images, cool voice-overs. They were a nice warm-up for the film. 40 years on I can still remember ads for St. Bruno tobacco, Gordons gin, local jewellery stores, restaurants, Debenhams and various other products from the era.
These covered, with the exception of the ad for BMWs, the range between weak and humiliating. I couldn't possibly name a single other brand or product advertised.
And as I sat there in my seat I looked down the row at the pudgy bloke & his partner next to us, both holding cartons containing about a cubic foot of popcorn each and between them a bucket with a couple of litres of the low-grade pretend cola sold in places like this. They were sat there glassy-eyed, hand slowly moving from box to mouth & back again, apparently absorbing it all - the cretinous Cinime competition, the lousy adverts, and I wondered what kind of people they were**, and whether they were really enjoying this interminable build-up, just like I wasn't.
Eventually the film started, and I breathed a premature and unfounded sigh of relief.
I'd never heard of the Vue chain until this one opened in Bicester, but I would need a very good reason to ever want to venture back inside one again. Our cinema going is relatively rare, and it's been pretty much Odeon only since moving to Oxfordshire, and has always been a generally pleasant experience. Maybe Vue hope to build a business servicing the 'lower end' of the market, whatever that might be? Call me a snob - in this case it's a title I'd be proud to wear - but I'd rather watch a DVD on my computer for a fiver or less than spend 20 quid to go through that again.
*Another miserable part of these adverts was that they made us late leaving the cinema, and all the eateries around that area closed at 10pm, so that we couldn't get any food. An advertised 7.15pm start and a film running 134min (including credits? for which we did not stay) should not have made us that late.
**I don't mean to be nasty about them and I really did wonder, but you can't start asking people questions in cinemas because that's not done. It does make me wonder what kind of people we're creating through the media they absorb though.