JANET STREET-PORTER: Hollywood must give us something to go and see

JANET STREET-PORTER: If Hollywood producers don’t give us something to go and see soon they won’t just be killing off cinemas, it will be the death of James Bond

The death rate for Covid remains lower than for seasonal flu, but living with the virus is having a devasting effect on our quality of life.

I’ve got used to wearing a hot mask when shopping and at work. I never hugged much, certainly not strangers, but I miss all my friends terribly- and they are getting more scared about meeting for supper as the doom and gloom from Boris and co gradually brainwashes us into thinking life will NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN.

Restaurants are only taking orders up to 8pm and city streets are dead by 10. Having a laugh has almost become a criminal offence.

Lockdown in various forms around the UK has condemned millions of citizens to house arrest and when they do venture out, to family weddings and funerals, the health and safety monitors are in full control.

An Odeon employee in London’s Leicester Square conducts deep clean of the auditorium

My ex-husband’s funeral the other month was limited to just 30 people. It was unbearably sad not to be able to even hug each other.

The video of grieving sons being prevented from comforting their mother at dad’s funeral this week were a shocking reminder that in a crisis it’s the tosspots and bureaucrats who reign supreme.

Now, the grim news that one of our major cinema chains is to shut up is further proof that Covid is unnecessarily depriving us of life’s simple pleasures. Cineworld is suspending operations in the UK and USA from this Thursday, putting thousands of jobs at risk. Odeon cinemas plan to close a quarter of their screens on weekdays and Vue are still deciding what action to take to survive the winter.

These drastic actions have been brought about because the producers and financiers of blockbuster movies do not want to release products into a market place where seating is restricted and audiences are smaller because they are cautious about venturing out.

These producers are gambling that one day we will return to normal and there will be queues of fans willing to sit with total strangers for a night out. But without a vaccine, that could be a year away – and what about our mental health right now?

The release of No Time to Die has been delayed yet again, this time to the spring of 2021

If ever there was a time we needed the escapism and joy of a James Bond film, this is it. And yet, the release of the latest opus in the franchise – No Time to Die – has been delayed yet again, this time to the spring of 2021. I wouldn’t even bet on that date. The star, Daniel Craig, has spoken out in support of the decision on US television last weekend. He’s wrong.

Other films whose release has been delayed because of Covid include Wonder Woman 1984, Top Gun Maverick, Venom 2, Godzilla v King Kong and the remake of West Side Story.

I passionately love the cinema, throughout my life it’s been a place where I can cry, I can scream and laugh till I feel weak. I started as a child- spending every Saturday morning at the Regal in Fulham Broadway, West London singing the ABC Minors song at the top of my voice with hundreds of other working class scruffs –

‘We are the boys and girls well known as

the Minors of the ABC

And every Saturday we line up

To see the films we like

And shout with joy and glee….’

A film fan carries popcorn through the foyer at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square, London

I even sang the song again (still out of tune after all these decades) live on telly this week. The cinema was where I escaped mum and dad and their pointless rules and regulations. ABC Minors would rush into our seats at 10am (proudly wearing our metal badges) and spend the next two hours eating popcorn, shocking pink lollies and sherbet dabs. We would chuck stuff all over each other, god knows how the staff cleaned the place afterwards. The films were nothing special- black and white shorts about motor cycle racing, a bit about the royal family, a three D film for which we wore cardboard specs and screamed our heads off as we went up and down the big dipper. There were cartoons, Bugs Bunny was my favourite – then a cowboy film and something dreary about nature.

By 16 I’d caught the bug and was a fully fledged cinema buff, going to films with subtitles in small art houses and boasting to my friends at school that I didn’t need them as my french was so good! By the time I arrived at college at 18 I could have chosen French New Wave cinema or Italian neorealism as my Mastermind subject.

Then I fell in love with trashy horror movies (Steve McQueen in the Blob) and grim English black and white dramas like A Taste of Honey.

These days, the biggest blockbusters cost an obscene amount of money, the special effects are jaw-dropping, the costumes and music truly awe-inspiring. The biggest budgets chase the biggest audiences. But actors complain the dialogue can be silly and they are reduced to acting in front of screens and not interacting with each other. The Superhero franchises are glossy, shallow films for grown-up children.

A Cineworld cinema in Ashford, Kent, is pictured with a poster for the new James Bond film

Independent movies remain where the most creative ideas are – films like Parasite, Lobster and the Favourite have been my favourites in recent years. But cinema must appeal to many audiences, not just one. It’s somewhere we go to be inspired and moved – which is why the decision to close the Cineworld Group and the Picturehouse franchise is so wrong.

The producers of No Time to Die should accept that their audience is the same people who have been to every single Bond film over many years. These fans have invested a huge amount of money in their passion. In contrast, the producers are wealthy people – why can’t they release the film before Christmas so that families can enjoy outings together during this miserable time?

Why aren’t producers and film studios prepared to give something back to their loyal supporters? The Government say they have invested £30million towards saving local cinema – a pittance. If cinemas remain closed throughout the winter there isn’t much hope they will re-open in the spring.

If cinemas go out of business during the epidemic it doesn’t matter how many movies Hollywood churns out afterwards, there will be nowhere left to see them. Except Netflix.

From highly skilled technicians, makeup and costume designers to the people who show you to your seats and sell popcorn at your local Odeon, thousands of jobs will go, including 007’s.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if, having survived some of the most evil masterminds in history, James Bond was killed off by a coronavirus and his producers’ greed?

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