During a recent viewing of The Force Awakens in my hometown of Calgary, Canada, one aspect of the movie-going experience struck me more than any other: the pre-show commercials. I only realized half-way through that I should have been counting them, but I’d estimate that there were more than a dozen commercials that ran a total of ~10-15 minutes. Most of the audience seemed to be used to them, but it was a rude contrast compared to watching a movie in the U.S.
I’d promised by the end of the barrage to never buy another ticket from Cineplex Odeon (which now weigh in at ~$18 CAD), but this opened the question of whether there were any alternatives in Calgary. The answer: not really. Six of the largest theatres are under the Cineplex flag, and the other two (Shawnessey and Country Hills) are run by Landmark Cinemas, a smaller chain, but not a better one. There is still a sprinkling of independent theatres left in the city (the Globe downtown or the Plaza Theatre in Kensington), but they’re generally too small to carry major attractions.
In San Francisco, we have at least three major contenders to the large chains: the newly opened Alamo Drafthouse, Sundance Cinema’s Kabuki in Japantown, and the Embarcadero location of Landmark Theatres; all of which provide an excellent film experience. Each of these theatres is part of a chain itself, but a smaller one that’s decidedly less hostile to its clientele.
San Francisco also has two large locations of AMC Theatres (Van Ness and the Metreon near Yerba Buena), the American parent of Cineplex Odeon. Puzzlingly though, I’ve never seen a movie at either that came with even a fraction of the Canadian ads. You can invent your own reasoning for this, but I suspect that it’s due to increased competitive pressure from other American companies which haven’t yet experienced anywhere near the same level of consolidation that we’ve seen in the Canadian market. Like with banks and telcos, theatres are yet another example of an industry in Canada that’s a monopoly in everything but name.
For the little difference it’ll make, in the future I’ll personally try to abstain from going to movies at non-independent venues in Canada.
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