Dear Odeon Cinemas,
Picture the scene:
I’m on my first date with FJM to the cinema – we’ve known each other almost two years, so it’s quite an amazing feat. It’s Jurassic World, something he’s really looking forward to seeing. As I haven’t been to the cinema for five years, I excitedly order popcorn and nachos and throw myself into eating the quite-frankly disgusting cold plastic cheese the latter are served with, with gusto.
You see yesterday was the first evening showing of Jurassic World that FJM and I could go to. I’d been stalking the Your Local Cinema website to find a captioned showing ever since I found out that FJM went to see the original Jurassic Park three times in one week when it came out in 1993.
Such was my excitement that we got there 40 minutes early. Such was my excitement that I checked with staff that this captioned movie was definitely happening several times. Such was my excitement that I ate most of that plastic cheese – DEAR GOD WHAT IS IN THAT STUFF? – while FJM did his best with his stale popcorn.
So imagine my horror when the opening scene began to roll and not a single caption popped up. ‘Okay, okay,’ I reasoned, maybe they are just normal subtitles rather than ones of the hard of hearing. Maybe once people start talking some captions will pop up. People started talking.
I was not alone in my speedy sprint down the stairs from my £13-something Premier Seat where we found a guy with a walkie talkie looking a bit panic stricken.
The film continued rolling. FJM ate his stale popcorn.
To be fair, I couldn’t fault the Odeon staff at this point. They were trying. I could see the exertion on their faces of running up the stairs to the projection room to see what was going on. And when I asked that they start the movie again once sorting the subtitles, they agreed.
And so they did. And we all returned to our seats. I put the plastic cheese to one side and sat nervously. Odeon wasn’t about to ruin my first ever cinema date with FJM was it?
The opening scene rolled again. The egg started to hatch, and the crow’s foot hitting the snow didn’t quite have the same impact second time around. Anne Heche said something unintelligible to me and… there were no captions.
At this point, and I really don’t blame them, most of the people who had come for the captions left.
The movie was paused. I remained hopeful. I held FJM’s hand and tried to forget the tub of plastic cheese I’d just eaten.
Third time around, I held my breath as the first little claw came out of the delicate egg shell. I held my breath as the crow landed on the snow. I held my breath as Anne Heche yelled something unintelligible and then I realised that I too would have to walk out of this cinema and take the non-subtitle-needing FJM with me.
And while your staff politely issued me my refund. For the tickets. For the plastic cheese. For the slightly stale popcorn, I found myself tearfully apologising to FJM that he had to miss a film he really wanted to watch because of me.
I found myself asking staff why they couldn’t get the captions to work. Why when it was someone’s job, was it not being done? Why, when it was advertised and I double checked on arriving, did I not get what I had paid for? No one could give me any answers.
So then I asked staff if this happened often, they said no. Although they also looked like they were struggling to recall what a caption actually was. One of the guys who walked out at the beginning, said it happened quite a lot. His face had an expression of weary acceptance.
But I refuse to accept your incompetence, Odeon.
You ruined our date. And worse still, I had cold plastic cheese for dinner, when had I known you were going to screw up so spectacularly I would have passed on that and marched straight over to the Byron Burger opposite instead.
Do you know, last year there were reports that the UK box office suffered its biggest fall for 20 years? The cinema we went to, Kensington Odeon – not because its local but because it was the only one showing the movie with captions – was facing redevelopment and attracted a wealth of high-profile protestors about it.
But Odeon, I don’t have high hopes for your future, because the thing is, I don’t truly believe that you value all your customers. If you did, then yesterday wouldn’t have happened. Yesterday, someone would have checked the captions on the movie were working before the excited people turned up, ate plastic cheese and left again feeling angry and humiliated and in my case downright pissed off.
I understand that there will probably never be more than one subtitled movie a week and that this will usually be an afternoon showing because evening captions are likely to put valued hearing customers off – as Sara Cox once spectacularly demonstrated on Twitter. I understand that it probably all boils down to the subject of money.
But yesterday I spent £45 that you had to refund. You also gave me two free tickets to try and tempt me back next week after staff promised there would be a subtitled showing of Jurassic World again.
I will not be going.
I’d start a campaign if I’d thought it’d make a difference. Found a charity to help fund the showing of captioned movies. Or support an existing one. So that companies like yours don’t have to take the hit for making lives like ours accessible.
But I can’t really make that difference Odeon. You can. By not mucking up the one captioned movie you’re showing that month. By not serving plastic cheese and stale popcorn. And by remembering that you ruined my first date to the cinema with FJM.
Happy Tuesday Odeon.
Happy sodding Tuesday.