Worst Weekend Of Cinema – Part 1

This weekend was the worst net weekend of cinemagoing experiences that I’ve ever had. I went to the cinema twice, and both times I left dissatisfied. This blog post is about the second of the two trips.

Avengers Assemble.
Man, this movie looks good. Wish I was watching it and not, say, a black screen.

The less-awful of the two trips happened on Saturday. Ruth, JTA and I turned up for the 20:10 showing of Avengers Assemble at Oxford Vue. We were quite surprised, entering the cinema right on time, to find that they weren’t already showing adverts and trailers – the screen was completely dark – but we found our way to our seats and sat down anyway.

A little over 20 minutes later, nothing had happened, so I went out to where the ticket collectors were doing their thing, down the corridor, and asked if they were planning on showing a film in screen six at some point this evening. “There’s a technical problem with the projector,” I was informed, “We’re trying to fix it now.”

“When were you planning on telling the audience who are all just sat there in the dark?” I asked. There were mumbles of concern, but they were half-hearted: these people were paid primarily to tear tickets, not to deal with irate customers. The stub collector apologised, and I returned to the cinema to feed back to the others. Sensing the dissatisfaction of the other audience members, I briefly considered making an announcement to them all: “Ladies and gentlemen: I regret to inform you that Vue Cinemas doesn’t care about you enough as human beings to tell you themselves, but there’s a technical fault and they’re working on repairing it.” Instead, I grumbled to myself in a British fashion and took my seat.

“I could have downloaded a pirated copy by now,” I joked, “But then I wouldn’t be getting the real cinema experience.”

“For example, it’d start when you pressed the play button,” replied JTA.

(for those of you who know the story of his employment there, you might be unsurprised to hear that this was the very Vue cinema at which Paul worked, very briefly)

An audience falling asleep.
"Is the film on yet?" / "Nope; still just a black screen."

A little while later – still with no announcement from staff, we got sick of the whole thing and went and demanded a refund. The manager – when we finally got to see him (apparently he’s also the guy who was fixing the projector: I guess the cinema must be run on a skeleton staff) – was suitably apologetic, offering us free passes for our next visit as well as giving us a full refund. Another staff member apologised for the delay in sorting out the refund, explaining that “it always gets busy, especially on Orange Wednesdays.” I’m not sure why he told us this, given that it was now Saturday. Perhaps there were still patrons from the previous Wednesday, also still waiting to see their film, too.

As we explained to the manager, it wasn’t the wait that bothered us so much as the lack of information about the reason (or an estimate of the duration) of the delay. All it would have taken would have been a staff member to turn up at five or ten minutes, apologise, and explain, and we’d have understood: things break sometimes. All we wanted was a little respect.

7 replies to Worst Weekend Of Cinema – Part 1

  1. I do recommend writing to Vue Corporate. They were quick to reply when I did so… I assume they don’t like Vue Oxford making them look bad. Again.

    And twenty minutes is disgraceful. Unless the bulb has blown. But that shouldn’t happen as they need time to warm up, which means they should have known some minutes before the scheduled start time. If it was something like a snapped film (Which it could be – only screen 1 there is digital AFAIK) then my record for repairing and getting the film back on is 45 seconds.

    Unless they have completed their plan of replaying them all with digital projectors. In which case you’re on your own. This just goes to show that switching everything to a system where people on-site can’t fix it, and then proceeding to sack all the qualified people does not necessarily give a better customer experience…

    • This wasn’t “20 minutes to repair the problem”: this was “20 minutes until I got bored enough to go and ask what was going on, and why they hadn’t announced that there was a problem.” There was then a further 10 minutes before they took my advice and apologised to the audience, by which point we were already stood out in the foyer, waiting for the manager so that we could get our money back.

      Apparently screen 6 is digital, based on the discussion between the people who were repairing it.

      • Ah. Yeah. In that case they’d have to call an engineer out. When one breaks down there’s not much the projectionist can do besides try turning it off and on again. But yeah, they should have at least told you.

        • I’m guessing that a few reboots fixed it then, because by the time we were leaving they were promising the audience that they’d be starting within the next few minutes. Either that or they’ve got damn fast engineers in these parts. /shrugs/

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