The Horror! The Horror!

examines some of the weird, strange, and downright
sacrilegious things being done in the name of cinema

Last month, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the EasyJet tycoon, opened the first branch of his new chain EasyCinema.com in Milton Keynes. The theory goes that 80% of the cinema tickets available in Britain every year go unsold; there are hundreds if not thousands of screenings seen by only one or two people.. Obviously (apparently) the way around this is a change is cinema pricing: if it was structured more like the pricing of low cost airlines, we’d all be flocking down, popcorn in hand. Thus, tickets at the EasyCinema can be had for as little as 20p. Which is great, except that all the major distributors have refused to deal with this strange new concept so the films will all be second run. This is good in a way since film prices are getting stupid, with a ticket to City Screen costing more every time they bring out a new programme, but there is a fatal flaw: the cheapy-cheap tickets are available mainly for films showing at random times mid-afternoon. Has Stelios considered that the reason cinemas are empty then may not be the steep prices but the fact that most of us are busy doing other things, often the things which enable us to pay for our cinema tickets?

Why? That has to be the first of many questions to spring to mind when confronted with the idea of a Lord of the Rings musical. Why would anyone think that was a good idea? There are two sorts of people in this world, as far as I can tell: those who are already fed up with Frodo and those who still haven’t stopped picking apart the hundreds of minute ways in which The Two Towers isn’t faithful enough to the books. Which of these groups could possibly welcome the news that Middle Earth the Musical will be arriving in the West End in spring 2005, replete with the biggest budget ever for a show of its kind (£8million)? And better yet, it’s from the team that brought us Maddie. Excuse me? What? Well quite. Christopher Tolkien, son of the author, is said to be livid.

And while we’re on idiotic remakes: The Italian Job. Who thought that one up? Already out in America (we’re spared ‘til September), it’s getting pretty positive reviews over there. But then the reviewers are also referring to the original as ‘forgotten’ and ‘little-known’, so what would they know. The weirdest thing is it’s not a straight remake, in fact producer Donald De Line said it has little in common with the first except a nifty little car chase using Mini Cooper cars; it’s even set in Los Angeles. So why in the world would they want to give it the same title? What might otherwise have passed under the radar as a watchable caper movie will now be subject to endless, inevitably unfavourable comparisons with the original, accompanied by mutterings about bloody doors and under the breath jaunty whistling.

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