Giving young staff the flick

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By Don Gordon-Brown

So what was the saddest sight to confront me as I wandered the post-quake Christchurch CBD the other day to see what the future holds for its citizens?

christchurch cathedral.jpg

Was it the shattered Christchurch Cathedral (pictured)? Not really, even if its restoration could still be years away. Besides, if God wanted to knock down a place of worship, that’s her business and I won’t be wringing my hands over it.

No, the sight that had me shaking my head and wondering what Christchurch’s future is, especially for young ‘uns seeking work, is the recently opened Hoyts cinema complex between Colombo, Lichfield and Tuam streets not far from Cathedral Square.

The $50 million new Hoyts EntX multiplex, with more than 900 spacious faux-leather (imagine how much ticket prices would be if they weren’t!) recliner seats facing seven movie screens and with 13 food outlets on the ground floor, replaces the eight-screen Moorhouse Avenue facility lost in the 2011 earthquake. My cinema of choice had such wide floor space between rows that you could easily put down a single mattress along it and still let patrons past, an idea I found tempting while watching The Girl with the Spider’s Web.

But seeing it’s still only a movie house after all, may I say how thoroughly modern millennium it is in design. Keeping staff to an absolute minimum while maximising profits appears to be its raison d’etre.hoyts tickets.jpg

Moviegoers select their movie, their seats and pay at a row of automated ticket machines and then make their way along candy bar central.

Everything is self serve: there’s dozens of overpriced buckets of popcorn that may or may not have been popped sometime that day; softdrink taps, super-sized cups, ice-dispensers and troughs, stands of help-yourself lollies, chocolate bars and packaged ice-creams. Bottled grog, too, but moderation, please, so  you don’t spew while you view.

When I say “help yourself” there are signs that explain one method of help-yourself – aka stealing – is frowned upon and people really must do the right thing and make their way to the pay station near the entrance to the cinemas.

hoyts popcorn.jpgWhile I appreciate these things are popping up all over the world anyway, I’ll still blame 2011 for the shake-along it gave Hoyts to create this soul-less, jobless monster perhaps earlier than they intended. Does anyone really think that when Hoyts management concocted these automated complexes worldwide to keep wage costs to a minimum, someone piped up: “That’s great. We’ll be able to pass on the savings through cheaper ticket and food prices!” If they did, I wonder where they are working now.hoyts drinks.jpg

I wandered up to the pay station sans munchies and slurpies and said to the sweet young thing there: “I didn’t see one but is there a self-service pay station where you can scan your purchases and pay by yourself?”

“Afraid not,” she replied innocently.

“But if they had those, you probably wouldn’t have a job here,” I suggested, seeing no-one appeared to be checking tickets, and the sweet young thing looked at me as if I was from another planet speaking a foreign tongue rather than just someone from another country who pronounces vowels properly.

Another lass joined her to process the food and drink purchases. Most patrons just walked past, perhaps unable to use their smart phones to get short-term loans to buy something to eat or drink. Maybe with tickets in hand, who knows, they headed for the unstaffed cinema door of choice. They could have had drumsticks shoved up their arses for all I know. Cool.

I imagine Hoyts will use the next big one to bring in those automatic food and drink pay stations, full-body x-ray screens to detect those inserted delights near the cinema doors, and  ticket-activated barrier gates similar to the Tube’s Jubilee Line to halt freeloaders in their tracks.

Further, I can’t for the life of me understand why those armrests in those fancy cinema seats don’t have the latest touch-pad technology to activate pop-up sleeping pods on those wide, wasted spaces between seat rows once you’ve completed a simple credit card tap and go to sleep.

You could activate them just for the one session if the movie is shit – and so many are nowadays – or if you’re in the final session for the night and you get both pissed and pissed off watching some tripe that barely has a storyline, they’d provide overnight accommodation at very reasonable rates. No-one should drink-view and drive.

With toilets and all that nutritious food and drink available just around the corner, and the addition of pay and pull-out drawers of towels, linen, pillows and cute little pyjamas with the Hoyts logo on them, why Hoyts didn’t do it when this opportunity fell in their laps is beyond me. Why wouldn’t you want to monetise such a concept, especially that 12-hour down time between 11pm and 10am, in a complex as expensive to build as this one? Time is money, right? With the extra rent-a-pod income, Hoyts surely could have reduced the price of the smallest popcorn bucket to a very reasonable $7.

If 21st Century pox cinema chains are busily working out ways to eliminate staff completely; if brick-and-mortar retail outlets are being gobbled up in Amazoningly fast fashion; if supermarkets and Binnings stores in NZ (they’re called that here so Kiwis pronounce them properly) all want you to self checkout, where exactly are the jobs for Christchurch’s young people, students or otherwise?

A couple of shitty, poorly paid split shifts at the fancy eateries along the likes of Oxford and Cashel streets are never going to give them the  cish to be ever able to afford to eat there.