Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: ODEON LIMITLESS CARD

After being underwhelmed by the limited range of films offered by the (ironically named) Cineworld Unlimited card, I voted with my wallet and defected to the Odeon Limitless card as a means of watching as many films as I wanted to in the year instead.




In terms of cinemas, the venues ranged from plush, comfortable and state-of-the-art (the newly renovated Orpington Odeon is as luxurious as any cinema I’ve been to, and one of the finest things about my otherwise fairly humdrum hometown) to scummy and very badly maintained (Birmingham, where I saw Lights Out, had muck all over the floor, as well as brats watching the film who were clearly under-15).


Money-wise, it cost roughly the same (£228 a year, slightly less than the Cineworld card’s £238.80 as you got a 5% discount if you paid for the whole year upfront), but I saw a few more films on the Odeon Limitless (69 compared to last year’s 42), which gave me ample to write about on my movie blog, especially all those BBFC essays!

Here’s a screenshot of my spreadsheet of all the films I saw on it. Films I rated 8.5/10 or more, and thus make my personal top 250, are shaded in lilac:





There was a usability aspect of the Odeon Limitless card which surpassed that of its competitor: the card allowed you to pre-book tickets to two films online, rather than Cineworld Unlimited’s one. This extra film helped a lot for the eager cinephiles, particularly when you’d booked a ticket to see one film, then the schedule for the following week dropped, and you didn’t want to miss out on viewing a popular film the day it was released, lest you be out of the loop at social gatherings.

In terms of the films offered, the Odeon acquired several titles that I wouldn’t have expected them to (Elle, The Handmaiden), although a quick check of Cineworld’s website told me that that chain had upped their game and done the same, thus, levelling the playing field between the two. Both of these films were absolutely terrific and made my top 5 of 2016, so fair play to both Odeon and Cineworld for procuring them. Furthermore, the Chinatown-located Odeon Panton Street showed a generous range of Chinese and Korean films that Cineworld didn’t, which as a lover of South East Asian cinema, was much to my liking.

With the Odeon Limitless card, it helps to know where to look. Odeon Panton Street and Covent Garden got a decent selection of films, considering artier fare than the mind-numbing Transformers/Pirates of the Caribbean/The Mummy selection that was on at Orpington. Furthermore, Panton Street and Covent Garden benefited from films being screened via platform release; My Life as a Courgette wasn’t available at the Odeon for the first few weeks it was being screened, but later on, was shown at Panton Street, and I’m so glad I saw that unusual stop-motion movie, because it was a beguiling joy. However, if you don’t have the luxury of being based in London, then it does mean, unfortunately, you probably wouldn’t get to see such titles.

Something that the Orpington branch of the Odeon did which I found extremely sly, was make films that you wouldn’t necessarily need to see on a bigger screen, such as Bridget Jones’ Baby and Bad Moms available on ISENSE at peak times (ie when most people were likely to go see them). To see a film on ISENSE, even if you were in possession of an Limitless card, one had to pay a £1.50 premium, and to this day, I can’t tell you how having the fractionally larger screen and noisier audio would amplify my enjoyment of those two romantic comedies. This is cynical opportunism, bordering on daylight robbery, and I was not impressed with the £3 I had to part with unnecessarily because of it.

Ultimately, the Odeon Limitless card suffered the same unforgivable flaw as the Cineworld Unlimited one: it didn’t obtain enough independent and foreign film. I was dying to see Asgar Farhadi’s The Salesman, yet the Odeon didn’t procure the rights to it. Somewhat of a massive oversight, given the film won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Oscars. Arthouse cinemas were screening it, but for £14 a ticket, it was a luxury I really couldn’t afford. (Also I was not giving any of my money to the Curzon after that insufferable man from the Curzon gave that insufferable BAFTAspeech, allow that).

A few other films which I was dying to watch and had a UK release but Odeon didn’t have were two each starring thelovely Rooney Mara (The Secret Scripture and Song to Song) and Bérénice Bejo (Childhood of a Leader and After Love), as well as The Fits. I saw Certain Women on a press screening, and it made my top 15 of 2016, and that is another high quality film that the Odeon failed the procure, tending to favour the more lucrative, less cerebral, Hollywood blockbusters.

A foreign film which I simply could not go without watching was Aquarius, mainly because blogs I read have been hailing Sonia Braga’s central performance in it. Thus, I went along to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, where on a Tuesday, you can watch films there for £6 + £1 booking fee. It was indeed a great movie and Braga did not disappoint (both the film, and the actress, made my top 10 films and performances of 2016 list, respectively), but I was irked by the fact that I was £7 out of pocket, when the Odeon really should have acquired that.

Thus, whilst it represents marginal gains from the Cineworld card (and barely, given Cineworld at least don’t swindle their customers into paying an extra £1.50 for films), I sadly won’t be renewing my Odeon Limitless membership for the year. A combination of factors: entering the final year of my PhD and not having time to watch dross, as well as me crunching the numbers and realising that if I cut down on the quantity of films I watch, and see titles of substance like Aquarius for a small individual sum rather than trite like The Light Between Oceans and TheGirl on the Train for free, in the long run, it will work out to be cheaper not to have the card.

At the end of the day, big chains like the Odeon and Cineworld tend to get all the big brainless blockbusters, because it will maximise their revenue. I can’t fault them for that; we do live in a capitalist society, after all. People need to line their pockets and make profits, I get that.  #YouDoYou However, by holding an Odeon Limitless card, it enabled me to waste my time on a lot of crap, purely because it was free and there was crap available for my consumption.

As a result, for every Moonlight (easily the best film I saw on my Odeon Limitless card and well worthy of its Best Picture win), I watched about 5 Sausage Partys. In the middle year of my thesis, such a waste of time wasn’t the end of the word, but as I enter final year, I simply cannot afford to be so profligate with my time.

Grade: C+

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