The Build-Up, The Anticipation, The Download

I was IMMENSELY looking forward to this film. Spoiler: it didn't disappoint.

I was – to my eternal shame as a woman in my mid early twenties – very excited about the eighth Harry Potter film. As soon as I saw the trailer, my movie buddy Ian and I were texting each other with ‘we should go see HP sometime’ ‘lol yeah awesome’, and our office, filled at the time with people in their thirties twenteens, was abuzz with rumours, predictions and the sound of that theme tune over and over again. And the noise of four women and one man taunting the one who hadn’t read the book but was going to watch the film.

It was great. I mean, really great. Everyone was really excited and we were glued to the screen. It had its faults, true, but overall it was a really enjoyable film. When I came out of the cinema I felt like I’d been part of a communal event, and during post-movie drinks Ian listened patiently as I spluttered: “Julie Walters laying the smackdown on Helena Bonham Carter! Avada Kedavra that, bitch!”

And so on.

I’ll be doing the same thing shortly. I’ve tried to round up as many people as I can to corral them through the doors to see Captain America, and we’ll be going out for drinks and dinner as well. For me, attending the cinema is a real event.

That’s why the current vogue for downloading disconcerts me somewhat. Yes, yes, I get it: cinemas charge too much and films are all rubbish now anyway and you don’t like being around other people and Hollywood’s run by fascists, blah blah blah. I’m not going to say any more on the morality of the matter, because I’m not a hypocrite and it’s a rare person these days who’s never illegitimately (I use that word deliberately) downloaded anything, but it does make me think.

A rather stylised representation of someone downloading a film

Surely it’s just no fun? Assuming you have a decent internet connection, you can download a film in an hour or two. Then you watch it on your computer. Woo. It strikes me as a lot like watching a film on a plane, except less likely to contain Jennifer Aniston. But where’s the anticipation? Where’s the fun of planning a night out? Where are your mates while you’re hunched over your laptop?

Some see it as expensive, and yes, people in London pay far too much for cinema tickets. Fortunately, I was born and bred in the Westcountry, where no one dares charge so much because no one down here can afford it. £6.50 isn’t a lot – you’d pay that to get into some nightclubs, and then you have to pay a fortune for their fizzy pisswater on top of that and, unless you’re watching The Human Centipede, in a cinema no one will puke on your shoes.

However, there are people – I’ve met at least one – who dislike cinemas on more than financial and ideological grounds. They get claustrophobic, or agoraphobic, or just hate the fact that some moron teenager is bellowing to their friends about what an awesome time they had that day and how much they totally fancy their girlfriend, and the film’s obviously already started because Voldemort’s on the screen, you stupid idiot, and if I thought your social life was remotely interesting I’d talk to you of my own accord.

So how can we bring the fun of a party to the housebound, without having to wait two months? Well, there’s the thing. Why do the distributors not release DVDs at the same time as releasing the films in cinemas? That way you can get in the snacks and drinks – and you’re allowed alcohol now – and gather together your best friends to watch in the comfort of your own living room. (At least if they talk over the film, you’re interested in their lives.)

Before the advent of downloading, this was madness – you pay £6.50 for every time you see a film at the cinema, yet you can buy a copy to watch as many times as you like for just over twice that, and now with DVDs you can get all sorts of extras as well. Simultaneous release would have destroyed the cinema industry. But now it’s madness not to. Now there’ll be no excuse to download, because you’re getting what you want when you want it, and you’ll be paying your way just like you would with any other service. I mean, you’re not a thief or anything, right?

This also has implications for “try-before-you-buy” downloaders as well. My suggestion – and it is completely unworkable, but I’m weirdly fond of it anyway – is to watch it at the cinema, and then implement some sort of scheme where if you hand over your cinema ticket, you get the price of it off the DVD purchase, perhaps with some added incentive supplied by the cinemas. This encourages people to watch it at the cinema and buy the DVD, and would hopefully reduce downloading.

Or, of course, the film industry could carry on shouting at downloaders like an angry twenty‑something‑year‑old woman shouts at teenagers while trying to watch Harry Potter.

Futilely.

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