It's not so long ago that the only place to see a film was on the big screen. Sure, if you were willing to wait three years (or more) it might eventually appear on the television, but that was never quite the same. I remember the Disney films of my childhood, for example, from one single screening at my local cinema. There were no video players in those days, no special edition DVDs, and no digital channels devoted to repeating these timeless classics over and over ad nauseam. You couldn't numb us 70s children into submission by endlessly replaying our favourite Disney classics at home, oh no. It was the cinema or nothing, and (unless you were particularly keen) just the once.
And then the entertainment industry worked out that they could sell us each film twice, first on celluloid and then on video. How great to be able to own a film rather than just experience it. Now the action was under our personal control - fast forwardable through the dull bits, pausable in case of interruption and rewindable so that we could learn every last piece of dialogue off by heart. With the advent of DVD we were even treated to special added extras unavailable at the cinema, things like audio commentaries (worth only a single listen), deleted scenes (usually deleted with good reason) and static text (with all the design allure of a good Ceefax page). And at home the audience was much better behaved than in the cinema, the sofa was more comfortable and the nibbles were considerably cheaper. But it still took a year for each film to reach our living room, just to give the satellite film channels and video rental stores a decent share of the pie.
So, what's going on now? Films are no sooner out of the cinema than they're popping up in deluxe plastic casings in your local DVD shop. Legitimately, even. It was only back in June that Batman Begins and The League of Gentlemen graced the big screen, but four months later they're already gracing the High Street. Star Wars III (May) is released on DVD next Monday, and then in consecutive weeks we're being offered The Descent (July), War Of The Worlds (very late June) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (very late July). It's not just because it's Christmas either, this is happening all year round, and not just for the usual straight-to-video turkeys. It seems it's never too early to flog shrink-wrapped cinematography to an eager and willing public with credit cards at the ready. In which case, now that you only have to wait a measly four months, why bother going to the cinema at all?
Why go? Because films are cheaper at the cinema, that's why. Just think how much a brand new DVD costs and compare that to the price of a cinema ticket (I'm assuming you can resist the nachos, pick'n'mix and overpriced popcorn). We wouldn't dream of watching a film three times at the cinema, but we'll happily shell out an equivalent amount to watch a film once at home. Maybe twice if it's a favourite, but then it just ends up on a shelf or in a cupboard along with all the other forgotten blockbusters as we devour something more recent instead. Go on, how much money is tied up in your DVD collection. I bet it's a lot. And what percentage of those films have you watched less than three times? Be honest, I bet it's most of them. Take my advice (and that of your bank manager) and try to resist the allure of the shiny silver disc. Films are much better seem at the cinema, on the big screen, just the once, for peanuts.