Editorial: Reading us wrong

Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014

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How does that phrase go again? "Coming soon to a cinema near you . . ."

Annoyingly for many Invercargill movie lovers, there's a significant difference between a cinema near you, and the one where you actually live.

They are becoming expeditionaries - pilgrims, even - heading to the not-so-near likes of Arrowtown, Gore and Wanaka for nourishment.

They need to travel to catch films that the Australian-based Reading Cinema chain has assessed to be of insufficient interest to their customers.

Well, heck, you can't cater for all tastes all the time, especially when it comes to obscure arthouse fare.

But are we really talking about that sort of movie?

Depends how obscure you regard the Academy Awards and the Baftas to be.

Films like 12 Years a Slave and August: Osage County, both nominated for best-film Oscars, are among the maddening contingent of offerings being advertised as screening nationwide, when the reality is they just tantalisingly orbit Reading's Invercargill and Queenstown cinemas without landing.

The same was even true for Philomena . Judi Dench is apparently deemed to be of significant interest to Reading patrons when she's playing in the James Bond franchise.

Happily, this particular dunderheaded decision was eventually reversed in the city. All it took was a public reaction that bore an awful resemblance to a torch-carrying mob. The result was crowded, sometimes sellout, sessions.

Admittedly, other best picture nominees - American Hustle, Captain Phillips and The Wolf of Wall Street - have been screening at Reading theatres and there can't be any reproach for the absence of the three other nominees Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska and Her which haven't been released nationally yet.

The local Reading management and staff, regrettably, seem to have about as much control over their product as the local KFC staff have over the secret herbs and spices.

But at least at KFC someone, somewhere, had a sense of taste.

Reading head office decision makers across the ditch appear to be seeing Invercargill and Queenstown communities as if through the wrong end of the telescope.

It's not that they can't see us, exactly. Should they be inclined to squint they can see very distant, very small, characters who occasionally appear to be leaping up and down . . . not that they can easily make out what we're trying to say.

The Southland Times Quick Flix column, which runs each Saturday, uses a combination of local and international reviews to suggest the week's top 10 cinematic offerings.

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On that basis, people who didn't know the south could be forgiven for concluding that Dorothy Browns in Arrowtown was at least as big, if not bigger, as Reading Invercargill.

To be fair the larger box office venues do have some booking constraints that the smaller, independent ones don't.

Because the stakes are higher in the larger venues, the film distributors apply stricter rules when it comes to setting the number of weeks, and times per day, that a film is to screen.

But increasing numbers of southerners are getting publicly grumpy about what they're missing, and reasonably so.

Improved judgment and flexibility need to come into play, otherwise people will continue to look elsewhere, including the dodgy realms of illegal online piracy.

- The Southland Times


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