Periodically around here we have a heated debate about tabs. Tabs are what we professional cinema types call the curtains that close in front of the screen.
Do we really need them? They’re pretty rare in other cinemas, no multiplex outside the West End has them as far as I know. Whole generations have grown up without them being part of the cinema experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re lovely and have always felt it’s not a proper cinema without them, but they’re another thing to go wrong and require vigilant maintenance if they are to continue operating smoothly. There’s motors and keeping cables greased and bobbins running freely and when they go wrong, boy they can make a mess as the snagged cable tries to pull everything off the wall.
As the bunching of the material takes up quite a lot of space in the proscenium, if we did ditch them we would be able to increase the size of the screens, something that rather appeals to me.
In the end that’s why we’re all there isn’t it? To watch the screen, not the nice drapes. I programme quite tightly so quite often only one person sees them anyway.
I’m sure customers don’t storm the foyer of the multiplex in Brighton demanding some kind of fabric covering to protect the screen’s modesty. People still go there regardless.
On the other hand I’m pretty sure it has a positive subliminal effect, adding a patina of comfort and familiarity that’s quite relaxing.
I like to think we aren’t another cookie cutter cinema and things like screen tabs are what set us apart. After all, without exception all the few remaining flagship cinemas we have in the West End retain screen tabs. I love watching the elegant swish of the tabs at the Odeon Leicester Square and the Empire. Is that a bit weird?
Our original vision way back in the 70’s was not to make the orange painted boxes I mentioned in my previous post but to simply make smaller versions of a proper cinema. Perhaps, now more than ever, we need to hold on to that ideal.
That doesn’t mean we’ll be having a cinema organ anytime soon though.