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Film noir12/01/2006 - par Mark Tungate
I've always loved the cinema, but lately I've begun to wonder if it's a dying medium. It's not the fault of films, but of cinemas themselves. Over Christmas, I went with my parents to a multiplex just outside the English town where they live. In the 1990s, multiplexes were built to give suburban families access to films in clean, modern - if slightly clinical - surroundings. But the multiplex I went to in December displayed all the signs of decline. The seats were grimy and squashed, the carpet was stained, and the odour of popcorn and neglect permeated the entire experience.
In France, there is a genuine reverence for film. But the situation here is hardly better. You can't book your seat in advance, so everyone stampedes towards the best places. Popcorn crunches in mouths and under your feet. People kick the back of your seat. Mobile phones go off. The other day, at the big UGC in Les Halles, in Paris, a couple started fighting in the waiting area. Now, I don't mind watching men and women fighting at the cinema - but only if one of them is Uma Thurman, and she's wielding a sword.
In competition with all this mayhem is the ability to download movies illegally from the Internet, or through new pay websites like Vongo (www.vongo.com), and watch them everywhere, from mobile phones to giant plasma screens at home. The main selling points of cinemas are that they have huge screens, and they have great sound. But if they want to survive, maybe that's no longer enough.