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January 22nd, 2005

Marketing the Tsunami Appeal.

Tomorrow, the big chain cinemas in Sydney (and I assume Australia) are donating all the money from ticket sales to the Tsunami Disaster...

As long as you go before midday.

Can't you just feel the kindness oozing off that? No. Well, I don't blame you. The money made from those ticket sales won't cost the chain cinemas anything. See, most of the cinemas will open around quarter to ten for the children films like Spongebob Squarepants, in which suffering parents will limp along to the mostly empty cinemas (the kids films currently showing are ending their run) but the adult films, which bring in the majority of the money, don't begin until eleven. What this means is that the chain cinemas will actually be donating the proceeds from only one set of sessions aimed at adults, and two from those aimed at children... and these proceeds will be gathered on a Sunday morning, which is traditionally a quiet morning as people sleep in, nurse hangovers, go to Church, fuck, and whatever else it is that you after the high spending of Friday and Saturday nights.

Doesn't the generosity want to make you weep?

A cynical person might suggest that the inclusion of the Cinema Chains into Tsunami relief means that the actual cause of getting aid for Tsunami victims has penetrated into the corporate marketing mind of big business. What I mean by this is that the words the Tsunami Appeal have because a form of marketing, a sign to the average person on the street to go and spend money so that they can help the victims... but, in truth, they're no longer doing it for the victims, they're out there to consume, functioning as consumers, with the words Tsunami Appeal having the same desired result as the words Half Price Sale, Post Christmas Sale, Half Yearly Sale, and Going Out of Business Sale do. The Tsunami Disaster is no longer the largest tragedy in our lifetime, but a marketing tool too.

Since I am a cynical person, this is exactly what I am suggesting. The inclusion of the Cinema Mafia Bosses, who rule Australia with iron firsts, and who have never been motivated by an ounce kindness, are the signal of this.

I say this because I worked in a cinema for five or so years. I have personal experience with the men who make the decisions. They had a easy, casual cruelty to anything that began with the word Art. Anything like that didn't make money. Art was stillborn in their world. The attitude was there when I began working in the mid nineties, right before the multiplex cinema burst across the landscape like a case of bad teenage acne, and killed off the old, beautiful cinemas. But worse, their arrival ensured an attitude of money now now now which came with the rise of multiple cinema booking for films. By this I mean placing a popular film into three cinemas to soak up as much cash in the first couple of weeks as it can, then kick it out and replace it with another mindless blockbuster. Bad for film culture because it doesn't give any room to films that slowly build with popularity, bad for film making as an attitude, bad for small independent films that struggled even more now to find space.

Along with this, I saw the trade that was a Projectionist given the swift and harsh boot of the Cinema Mafia so they could be replaced by ushers who were trained in a two week course, and who worked at a fraction of the hourly rate. I was one of those just out of High School casuals who ended up trained as a projectionist. I've heard about the mark up rates on popcorn (something like 200%), the slow increases of prices, the cutting back of staff, and a hundred thousand other little bits and pieces that has left me with absolutely no doubt that the big cinema chains in Australia are nothing but a corporate choke chain, strangling our cash from us.

Mark my words, the Tsunami Appeal is no longer about helping the victims. It's a marketing tool. Expect Tsunami Happy Meals any day now.