Back on August 15th, I managed to catch a showing of the Bourne Ultimatum in London’s Tottenham Court Odeon cinema a couple of hours after the star-spangled Leicester Square premiere.
I made a brief comment at the bottom of the AiB review, saying
(But due to the shiny defect in the middle of the cinema screen, and the ill-focussed picture, I don’t recommend that you pop into Screen 1 at Tottenham Court Road Odeon.)
What I didn’t mention at the time, was what had actually happened. Being the opening night, the cinema was very busy, so the only seats available had been in the VIP section – slightly wider seats with more legroom, bang in the middle of the tiered seating. Priced at a premium too :(
But there was a shiny patch in the middle of the screen. Every time Jason Bourne’s massive head occupied the centre of the frame, the shiny patch would protrude from his nose!
It was also pretty obvious that much of the screen was out of focus. And not just the normal soft focus that cinema prints tend to adopt. The captions telling the audience which location the action had jumped to (down in the bottom right corner) were very blurry. And while the credits were quite sharp at the top centre of the picture, they were very hazy (to the point of making you squint) at the bottom centre. Not the kind of quality visual experience I’d expected from a cinema chain that advertises itself as being “fanatical about film”.
Bourne films are fast moving and I was in the middle of a row in a very crowded showing, so I didn’t feel like disrupting my viewing as well as that of everyone else by getting up to walk outside to complain in the middle of the film. (Though the next time something went wrong in a cinema I did go out immediately. Live and learn!)
But at the end, I did immediately draw it to the attention of the attendants – are they still called ushers? Agreeing that there could well be a problem, I was directed up to talk to the duty manager who phoned to come down to the ticket desk.
Quickly listening to my description of the problem, she responded with “well the tills are closed and the money’s in the safe so you can’t have a refund”. I was a bit taken aback having not asked for or mentioned anything about a refund. But rather than explaining why there might have been a problem, or what she’d do to check it out, she just repeated that everything was locked up stood looking at me. Sensing that compensation was all she was thinking about, I offered her my name and address. “No, can’t do that” she said, before turning away. Conversation over.
As well as writing up a quick review, I raised a complaint through Odeon’s website, receiving back an automated response telling me that my
“query has been received and we will get back to you shortly.”
Time passes ... as the old text-only computer adventure games would have said.
After a week or so, I resubmitted the complaint text, mentioning that no one had got back to me. And then I dropped it. Except that every week I got an email telling me about the fine films on offer at Tottenham Court Road (a by-product of ordering the tickets online and forgetting to tick the junk mail box) and every couple of week’s I’d end up walking part Odeon’s Whitcomb Street headquarters (tucked in just south of Leicester Square) and I’d remember that they’d ignored me.
So eventually on November 16th I phoned up the head office number and was told to send an email to their bookings address rather than the customer service address.
That elicited a brief human response apologising for the lack of response, and passing the “email on to the cinema’s management and general manager”. It finished with a prediction:
“I’m sure that you will get a swift response.”
More time passed. Ten days went by before I emailed back on the 26th.
Finally on 1 December, I got a reply, stating that there had been a problem with the print on August 15th, that was sorted out shortly afterwards, and that “Guests” should have been made aware of it. A complimentary guest ticket (normal seat rather than VIP!) arrived in the post a few days later. Given the lack of Odeon/UCI cinemas in Northern Ireland at the moment, I’ll have to wait until the eight-screen Odeon opens in Victoria Square next March before I can use it locally. And I’m not keen to go back to the Odeon in London.
Fanatical about Film ... but Complacent about Customers.
And if you do want to complain to the Odeon, probably best to write to “Odeon Guest Services, FREEPOST ODEON”. Harder to ignore a piece of paper than a web-response form or an email. And why not consider supporting the smaller cinema chains and independent cinemas with your trade. Rant over.