Must We Eat to be Entertained?

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To see a cinemagoer enter a screening with anything less than a large bag of sweets and a coke is an unusual sight. We can’t get enough of scoffing our faces when a film comes on, but why?

By Ella Turner

 

In 2010, Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo created a code of conduct every cinema visitor should follow. The first three rules are “no eating, no slurping and no rustling.” And yet, we still choose to do all these irritating things. Must we eat (loudly) to be entertained?

For the last twenty years, the government have been attempting to win the acceptance of the nation with the healthy eating campaign. Eat five a day and you’ll live longer, exercise at least thirty minutes a day and remain fit till death. All these plans came across more like challenges, and with initial complaints mainly focused on funding this new lifestyle, it seemed more suited towards those who could afford to buy quinoa by the kilo. Compare today however with 10 years ago, the average UK household in Britain now eats four pieces of veg a day, and the schemes have been tailored for everyone, not just the ones who can afford it. The cinema however, a place where demographics from across the country are united for ninety minutes only, is an establishment where all health – and wealth – concerns are left at home. Odeon cinemas charge an adult ticket at £8.20, and most have conveniently placed the ticket till at the confectionary counter, although now it is less of a confectionary counter and more of a buffet. Tempting ‘bad fats’ line the food greenhouses, perfectly placed at eye level for over-excited children. The food menus are lit up like the young eyes reading them, and parents use their kids as an excuse to buy a large bed of nachos and lemonade. You can purchase coffees from Costa, New York style muffins, popcorn, hot dogs, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, pizza slices, milkshakes, frozen yogurt and even a beer. Odeon is entertaining all the senses.

The necessity to indulge and watch films, as with many of our current trends today, sailed over the Atlantic Ocean from America. Going to the movies is a big event in the States, and with new multiplexes holding up to 6,000 people, the sales of food have rocketed. Warren Theatres based in Kansas, delight customers with their offer of a 32oz drink (almost 1 litre) and large popcorn for $7 – with a free refill of both. If a viewer were to take up this offer, they could be consuming a grand total of over 3000 calories, one portion of popcorn alone gracing them with three days worth of saturated fat, idly consumed whilst they sit comfortably, bodies moulded by their flip down chair.

As we have latched on to this way of feeding all senses whilst watching films, ideas for making the experience even more indulgent have begun. Edible Cinema is an exciting prospect for anyone who likes the thought of wining and dining their way through a film. Created by Polly Betton and Zoe Fletcher, with screenings only in London, Edible Cinema presents contemporary food combinations served up to the backdrop of old classic films. Placed neatly on your private table, several small packages of mystery food and drink await your arrival. Next to it is a list of specially selected scenes from the film, with instructions to consume the correct packages with the intended scene. You can enjoy When Harry Met Sally (1989) whilst sipping Bombay Sapphire and eating champagne marshmallows. Or maybe one would prefer to nibble on almonds and rye bread whilst throwing back some cucumber vodka shots to the sounds of This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Devouring these luxurious menus whilst enjoying a forgotten film may sound like a perfect way to spend a Friday night, but with tickets starting at £37 each, you may find yourself back down your local complex with a mini tub of ice cream sooner than planned.

So why do we choose to spend hard earned pounds on over-priced, calorie filled products to accompany a film? We all love seeing famous faces doing the same normal things we do, and eating falls into that. There is that feeling of involvement when you are doing the same thing as the star on screen, so when Brad Pitt is eating in every single scene in Oceans Eleven (2001), it is absolutely ok for us to be doing the same, right? It is one of the many things that make films relatable, and eating is one of the few things that we the public love to know beautiful celebrities do too. However lots of people feel uncomfortable eating in front of others, whether that’s because they feel judged or animal-like ripping apart a hot dog or grabbing handfuls of Haribo, so eating in the cinema is an ideal alternative. Surreptitious eating in the dark: no one knows you, no one knows what you are eating, and more importantly no one can see you, only slight shimmers of tacos being stuffed into your mouth are revealed when bright scenes reflect off your face, illuminating your secret for a split second. So is the mystery of the great food and film question solved? If no one can see us, it doesn’t count. If it’s done in the dark, and you can’t see what you are doing, then the calories don’t count; the food doesn’t really exist. It’s the ninety-minute opportunity we get to mentally escape to another world through a film, and ‘physically’ escape the results of unhealthy food choices – and thankfully, that’s never going to change.

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