15 August 2010

My ongoing battle with Odeon Cinemas

We've been here before, I'm afraid.

Odeon Cinemas has let me down on numerous occasions with regard to the choice of films available and now, sadly, they've let me down again with their rather inconsistent approach to customer service.

I decided, back in June, that I'd like to see a couple of films. Unfortunately, the Odeon in Southend has a track record of showing very little other than money-hoovering blockbusters, animated fluffery, and anything in 3D because, you know, everyone loves 3D (and we desperately need to make our money back on all the new equipment we had to buy, which has become an even bigger problem now that the appetite for 3D movies appears to be waning already according to a variety of sources).

I went to the Odeon website and, noticing that the films I wanted to see were not playing here in Saaarfend, I decided to use the feedback facility and ask them a question.

4th June 2010

I would like to know if the Odeon Southend are planning on showing either Four Lions or The Ghost at any point. Thanks in advance.

Now, Four Lions is a comedy from Chris Morris, one of the UK's most controversial and talented writers/directors. I do not think it outside the realms of sanity that the UK's largest cinema chain might support home-grown talent.

Additionally, The Ghost was directed by imp-faced sodomite Roman Polanksi who, whatever you may think of his historical sexual preferences (and subsequent flight from justice) can sometimes direct a rather good movie. Setting aside my personal feelings about him (and my astonishment that certain people in the entertainment industry are effectively saying "Yes, he raped a child, but it was a long time ago. Let it go." , I was rather interested to see the film.

Later that day, I received a reply.

4th June 2010

Thank you for your enquiry into films at your local ODEON Unfortunately it is impossible to say whether or not this film will be showing at your local cinema in the future. If the film is not scheduled into the cinemas weekly listings, then it is currently not available at the cinema. ODEON would love to be able to show all the latest releases and for as long as possible unfortunately, due to print availability, the amount of screens the cinema has, public demand and competing releases, this is not always possible. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

I re-read the message with no small amount of disbelief and quickly penned a response.

4th June 2010

Thank you for your generic template response.

It's a shame that Odeon Cinemas Limited does not consider their customers important enough to either send a bespoke response, or at the very least amend the generic template so that it mirrors the question.

I asked about two films and the reply said "this film".
I'm perplexed as to how it's "impossible to say whether or not this film will be showing at your local cinema in the future."

Impossible? Really? Or just 'difficult'?

Perhaps Odeon has a weekly draw where it puts a number of film titles into a hat and then randomly assigns them once they're picked out. Under those circumstances, I can imagine that it would indeed be impossible to ascertain whether a certain film would be shown at a certain venue. However, I'm reasonably sure that isn't the case and there must be something vaguely approaching a system or strategy at work which decides, in advance, what films will be shown where.

I think it's a lazy response which fails to answer my question. Once again, it would seem that because I have the unfortunate bad luck of living in Southend, I'm forever destined to be offered nothing more than the latest big-budget, 3D, special-effects-laden nonsense, 8 times a day on two different screens while lesser known films are, if they're lucky, given a single screening tucked away on a Tuesday night.

As for actually being able to find out in advance what those screenings might be this is, sadly, "impossible".

Very poor customer service I'm afraid.
I would, however, be interested in your comments.

I sat back and awaited their response with interest.

A couple of days later, it arrived. However, it contained a rather fascinating disclaimer at the bottom which reads thus:

"The email (and its attachment(s) if any) is intended for the named addressee(s) only. It contains information which may be confidential and/or privileged and/or exempt from disclosure under applicable law. Unless you are the named addressee (or authorised to receive it for the addressee) you may not read, copy or use it, or disclose it to anyone else."

Now, I'm not an expert in matters legal, so I really don't know whether I'm allowed to disclose the contents of the email here. It says that the email is intended for me only. But it then goes on to say that you may not read, copy, use or disclose it to anyone if you're not me. As I am me, does that mean that I can read, copy use and disclose it? Oh, the tangled web of confidentiality. How confusing it is to a simple soul such as myself.

Worryingly, by reproducing the disclaimer have I already committed a heinous act of breach of confidentiality for which I will be banged up in blogger's chokey? Who knows. Further, who cares.

So, I've made the decision not to present their email.

However, I can show you my response which should, hopefully, allow you to fill in the missing pieces.

6th June 2010

Thank you for your email. It's pleasing to receive an actual response as opposed to a generic template.

I'd also like to thank you for your thorough explanation of how to locate a film on the Odeon website. Unfortunately, I was already in possession of this knowledge and it really does nothing to address either of my previous emails.

Additionally, although I appreciate that both films did not go to national release, I note that in the case of Four Lions it is currently showing at Huddersfield, Leeds, Kingston, Manchester, Sheffield, Worcester and Edinburgh, amongst other towns. That seems like a reasonably 'national' spread.

Is there any particular reason it can't be shown at Southend, even as a Director's Chair special?
The previous email from Odeon Cinemas Limited stated that it was "impossible" to tell if a particular film would be shown at a particular cinema. Is that actually the case? I find it very difficult to believe that Odeon Cinemas Limited is completely unable to clarify which cinema a film will be shown at.

All I really want is to be told whether or not either of these films will be shown at the Odeon Southend. I think it's a very simple question and I hope that, after sending three emails, I may finally get an answer.
I look forward to your response.

I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally...

28th June 2010

I note that I haven't yet received a response to my email of 6th June. Are you in a position to answer my question please?

Miraculously, 2 days later I received a reply, again with the legal disclaimer/threat. I'm unable to reproduce it here, but it may possibly have said something about having no plans to show the films but that the Director's Chair season starts in September and they'll add the films to the list of possible showings. It might have said that, but I couldn't possibly confirm or deny either way.

Brilliant! So, come September I can, potentially, pay £7.50 to watch Four Lions at the cinema with £3 for a drink and £4 for some sweeties, totalling £14.50 or, alternatively, pay £10.99 to Play.com on 30th August to buy the damn thing on DVD. As for The Ghost, I can buy that for £9.99 on 20th September. I wonder which of these things I will do?

Just for the hell of it, here's the list of what the Odeon Southend is currently showing, along with my thoughts on each:

Cats and Dogs 2 - 3D (Fuck off)
Step Up 3 - 3D (Fuck off)
The Last Airbender - 3D (Double Fuck off)
Toy Story 3 - 3D (Brilliant! No, wait...Fuck off)
Inception (Hooray! Already seen it though and I shall write a blog post on THAT troubling experience shortly)
Karate Kid (Christ on a bicycle...)
Knight and Day (Oh dear God, why?)
Marmaduke (I refuse to even comment on this)
Salt (Angelina. Mmmmmm. OK, I'll pencil this one in)
Shrek Forever After (I don't think so, do you?)
The A-Team (Shudders)
The Expendables (Might be quite good fun actually. I'll let them have this one.)
The Sorcerers Apprentice (Apart from giving me the opportunity to snigger at Nic Cage's hair, I'll give this one a miss.)
Toy Story 3 - 2D (See: Toy Story 3 - 3D)

So there we have it. As a movie buff, my local Odeon has virtually nothing to offer me in the way of entertainment. Score 1 for turgid cattle-fodder, score 0 for the discerning customer.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Odeon Cinemas needs to change its tagline. In my opinion, it is not 'Fanatical About Film' it is 'Fanatical About Making A Large Profit From Mainstream Frippery, Artistic Integrity And An Ethical Duty To Support Independent Films Be Damned'.


Piley said...

Great stuff Dan... Remember when we were sold the 'all new' Odeon as being "more choice"? (I think all multi-plex cinemas offered the same lie). Well before the new Odeon we had 2 (maybe 3?) cinemas in the areas - all showing a different film (so there's 6 to chose from already), and add to that the special showings and Friday late nighters at the classic and I'm sure we had much more to chose from in those days than now. God forbid, cinema managers like dear old Ron Stewart used to listen to his punters and get films in that they asked for - no wonder they did away with him...

Love your (amazingly accurate) film review. Although I'm sure Mark Kermode gave the exact same review last Friday on the radio.

Is there any possibility of a weekly film round up? It would certainly help me before setting out to the theatre of dreams...


Cocktails said...

I don't mean to be rude Dan, but did it really take your lengthy correspondence to reveal that Odeon don't care very much about film?!

I am impressed by your perseverence, but really wish I knew what your customer service rep was thinking. Does he/she really believe their own crap or are they actually having a deep internal struggle over whether to admit that they're not screening the films because a. Odeon doesn't think that Southend has the demographics to make a screening profitable and b. Odeon don't care anyway.

I too, liked your film reviews. Although the jury is out on Karate Kid. Apparently it is 'quite good'. Not that I'm going to see it.

E F RICE said...

Typical Odeon Southend Dan and I admire your perseverance, another quality post. I will probably need to bare knuckle fist fight you on Shrek 3 as I found it thoroughly entertaining and little Miss E F Rice is a big fan (although 3D is just darn irritating).

What I like about your post is a potential new rating system for films which could prove a worthy replacement for the much missed alpha ratings (U, A, AA and X I think). Rising up the ranks through various flavours of fuck off, perhaps with fuck you rsole for the most offensive of films, people would know where they stand although I accept not a great example for kids.

I would write to the Odeon with this idea but I obviously don't want to steal your thunder. I can't say I am too impressed with the customer service there either !

Dan said...

Piley - You make very good points. My anger with the Odeon started way back in 1997 when I popped in to ask them if they had any plans to show 'Kundun'. The ticket-seller looked at me blankly.
"You know, Kundun. Directed by Martin Scorcese, one of the finest directors who ever lived. Did Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver."
I received another blank stare and then they very carefully said, "Don't fink so."

They probably couldn't fit it in because, as I recall, the Robin Williams vehicle 'Flubber' was in its twelfth glorious week. To this day, certain of my friends will mention Flubber in conversation because they recall how much I ranted at the time.

Cocktails - I'm afraid that I'm the sort of man who will pick at a scab until it bleeds, or wobble a tooth with his tongue until it falls out. I simply can't leave things alone and the Odeon is no exception.
I just continue to be astonished at how piss-poor their customer service is and am regularly incandescent with rage at how they appear to have given up.
I have another post coming soon on Cinema in general, but it needs more tweaking to make it less angry and more funny. Watch this space.

EF Rice - I'm afraid that while I found the first Shrek film to be enormous fun, the others are just designed to milk that cash cow for all its worth. Utter drivel, all of it.
Delightful to see that some directors (Christopher Nolan springs to mind) have totally rejected the use of 3D because they feel it doesn't add anything to the filmgoing experience. We need more people with morals.

As for the film-rating system, all three of you have mentioned it and I might make it a semi-regular occurrence. I have absolutely no problem with reviewing a film I haven't seen. Indeed, I see it as my duty to "horizon-scan" and warn people away from this sort of nonsense.
Additionally, I think that in the same way that the addition of bacon or cheese can improve any meal, the addition of extreme profanity improves any example of the written word.
Sweary film reviews are the way forwards, you mark my words.

Ishouldbeworking said...

This made me groan and laugh aloud in equal measure. I love the notion of you becoming a perpetual thorn in Odeon's suppurating side, but on the other had the paucity of care and imagination in their 'ethos' is spirit-crushing.

Brighton's an arty-farty up-itself place so we do better than most for films, but in general the whole experience of an evening out at the cinema is so horrible that I've tended to wait and take my chances with Lovefilm when the DVDs come out. I never have to wait that long for the ones I want as most of them are foreign (said the arty-farty up-herself Brightonian).

I think you should keep going at them. It's cathartic if nothing else.

And I loved the film reviews too. More please.

Dan said...

ishouldbeworking - Ah, if only I lived somewhere like Brighton. I've visited before and remember being driven past a couple of independent-type cinemas. I was hugely jealous.

One of the times that I recently visited my father, I was dismayed to see that the Odeon in Putney was showing both Four Lions AND The Ghost. It was like some sort of universal conspiracy against me - "No, sorry, YOU don't get to see these films because you live in Shitville-On-Sea. If you lived in the thriving heart of this cosmopolitan hub, you could watch any film you wanted. Toy Story 3 for you, you inbred yokel."

On the other hand, despite my contemptuous ire for the Odeon and other companies of its ilk, stamp and cardigan, I do enjoy sending them emails. If I can bitterly complain about something, highlight their many inadequacies, yet give the poor bugger on the other end of the computer something to smile at, then that's all to the good.

Oh, and more film reviews will follow...

Anonymous said...

Piley i think you actually need to look into how cinema's work , "God forbid, cinema managers like dear old Ron Stewart used to listen to his punters and get films in that they asked for - no wonder they did away with him.."yea intresting point you make there given cinema Managers dont actually get a say as to wat is put on in there cinema as this is chossen by Film booking Nothing to do with the actual Cinema, And wow how dare Odeon put Money making blockbusters on i mean after all its not like the business model is to make money ..... you all need to get a grip ....Andy

Dan said...

Thanks for your comment, Andy.

I agree that Odeon's business model is designed to make money. However, I respectfully suggest they should change their tagline from 'Fanatical About Film' to 'Fanatical About Profit'.

It might be nice if, occasionally, they showed something that wasn't the latest big-budget blockbuster. You never know, they might find that there's a whole section of the local community who'd start going back to the cinema if there were more quality films available.

Just a thought.