Home   What's On   News   Article

My Movie Week... with Mike Shaw


A team of researchers has discovered that chewing makes cinemagoers immune to film advertising, with popcorn the worst offender.

The reason adverts are able to imprint brand names on our brains is because our lips and tongue automatically simulate the pronunciation of a new name when we first hear it. Every time we re-encounter the name, our mouth subconsciously practises its pronunciation. And that’s hard to do when your mouth is full of popcorn.

Brainiacs from Cologne University say that this “inner speech” is disrupted by chewing, negating the repetition effect. In the experiment, the researchers invited 96 people to a cinema to watch a movie, which was obviously preceded by a series of adverts. Half of the participants were given popcorn, and the other half only received a small sugar cube. A test at the end showed that the adverts had left no effect on those viewers with popcorn, but the sugar cube bunch “showed positive psychological responses” to the products in the ads.

Which puts the cinema companies in a tricky position.

Cinemas don’t make much money from the movies themselves; profits come from snacks (which have up to a 600% mark up) and commercials. If the ads aren’t making an impact on the majority of the audience, then advertisers aren’t going to be all that keen on paying to show them.

So, do cinemas recoup the lost income by putting up ticket prices further (very bad move), hike up the costs of popcorn (say a 1,000% markup?) or do they impose bans on customers munching until after the ads? Whichever road they take, customers are going to lose out.

However, this all presupposes that the Cologne University research is correct, and I have a feeling it might be a load of rubbish. Just from personal experience, I always eat popcorn at the cinema, and I remember every single mind-numbing commercial beamed into my brain.

How many of you eat dinner in front of the TV? Once you finish eating, are you unable to recall anything you just saw? Nope, didn’t think so.

Madonna. Picture: Daily Mirror
Madonna. Picture: Daily Mirror

Someone noisily munching popcorn in the cinema with their mouth open is exceptionally annoying, but it pales in comparison to having an idiot in front of you playing with a mobile phone.

Now imagine how irritating it is when the annoying filmgoer illuminating their face is someone who should know better. Someone like Madonna.

That’s exactly what happened last week when the pop star smashed cinema etiquette during the New York premiere of 12 Years A Slave by tapping away on her Blackberry throughout Steve McQueen’s heavily-hyped slavery drama.

When an audience member asked her to stop texting, she reportedly spat back: “It’s for business!”

In response, the CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, banned the singer from his chain of cinemas, a move that has won him a lot of fans.

All right, getting banned from a small cinema chain is probably not going to affect Madonna’s life all that much, but it’s good to see someone take a stand. Even super-rich popstars aren’t immune to the rules of the cinema.

Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Picture: Sony Pictures Television.
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Picture: Sony Pictures Television.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I am a rabid Breaking Bad fan, but it seems I don’t even come close to Jeffrey Katzenberg. The DreamWorks boss offered Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan an outrageous
$75 million to make three more episodes of the TV show.

Breaking Bad flew under the radar for a long time, but became more widely known in the last couple of weeks of its life, as national newspaper columnists waxed lyrical about the series and pretended they liked it all along.

Katzenberg wanted to capitalise on this new interest by creating three 90-minute episodes, breaking them down into six-minute chunks, and airing them online at 99 cents each.

He says: “I had no idea where this season was going. The last series cost about $3.5 million an episode, so they would make more profit from these three shows than they made from five years of the entire series. I said [to them], ‘I’m going to create the greatest pay-per-view television event for scripted programming anybody’s ever done’.”

This way of doing things would cost about $15 for the final three episodes, spread over five-and-a-half hours.

Maybe I’m being blinded by my obsession with the show, but that doesn’t sound too bad.

As the story wound up, and tensions grew, I’d have happily paid out a tenner to see the minisodes as and when they were ready. Sure, it’s better to watch these things in one go, as it’s intended, but if it’s the difference between finding out on my own what happens, or having it spoiled, the premium system wins every time.

However, the idea was floated way too late and nothing came of it, but it’s a fascinating insight into Hollywood’s willingness to explore online revenue streams.

Katzenberg says: “I have the courage of my convictions in this. I just think that there is a whole new platform for [episodic] entertainment… and the higher the quality of the stuff that fills it, the higher people will be paid for the work that they are doing there.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More