Watching F1 in the cinema

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, Silverstone, 2007Formula 1 made its big-screen live debut last weekend – 30 Vue cinemas showed the British Grand Prix live.

I wasn’t able to go because I was at the race but my brother did. With F1 in the Cinemas rolling out across the country for the rest of his season, here’s what he told me about it.

The big selling point of F1 in Cinemas is that you get to watch the race in high definition. It’s not clear whether they use a ‘true’ high def feed, or a standard image that’s been up-scaled to look better, but the end result is far better than you get watching it at home.

Plus, it’s on an enormous screen and the surround sound booms – it’s an immersive experience, if a little surreal.

Almost as good is the picture quality is the fact that there aren’t any adverts. One blogger recently estimated that ITV miss up to a quarter of an hour of the race due to adverts, and it’s great not to keep missing chunks of up to two laps.

It does not share the same commentary team as ITV – the race analysis is supplied by Andrew Marriott (Eurosport) and Johnathan Palmer (ex-F1 driver, Motor Sport Vision boss and, of course, Murray Walker’s commentating partner for four years.

They do a fair job, but lacked the insightful comments of ITV’s Martin Brundle, and there were rather too many remarks encouraging us to appreciate what we were seeing and hearing on the high-def surround sound coverage.

Now we come to the big question – the price. Is it worth ??15 a ticket?

Well, you do get an official race programme, which costs ??10 a pop at the race track. Vue also throw in a soft drink of your choice and popcorn.

It’s still a lot to pay to watch a programme that airs for free on the TV. And you can’t necessarily see the live timing screens unless there’s a wireless connection at your local cinema and you have a laptop.

But the family ticket price – ??30 for two adults and two children – is not a bad deal.

I can’t imagine there’ll be much demand for this once F1 is being broadcast in high definition on television.

Which leads to a worrying question. Are they actually planning to show F1 in HD in the near future, or is this as good as we’ll get for the time being?

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6 comments on Watching F1 in the cinema

  1. I see this as an alternative to something many F1 fans I know would appreciate. The only good thing about ITV is indeed Martin Brundle and his insight, far more interesting and entertaining than most, especially what we have available in the UK.

    Watching F1 in HD on a huge screen with no adverts and interuptions (apart from viewers responding to nature’s call now and then) for £15 is reasonable, if not cheap.

    But then there’s the lack of other content such as the pre-race build up, Martin’s funny gridwalk etc etc…but some want to skip the whole thing and just get to the race.

    So, I think it’s a great idea. I think F1 has already planned to show races in HD soon (not sure, but I remember hearing something about it before this cinema showing).

  2. we’re planning to go watch the hungary race i think (murray walker is commentating the european gp, don’t want to miss that).

    re: planning to show high-def F1 in the UK:

    the sad fact is that terrestrial tv probably won’t be able to transmit *any* high definition shows in the UK until 2010 at the earliest.

    i’m guessing that’s why bernie chose the cinema option. he could do a deal with Sky to show F1 via satellite, but he tried that once before (as a non high-def broadcast), and it flopped.

    so in answer to your question, it’s cinema or nothing for the time being. at least in this country :(

  3. Nathan Jones said on 15th July 2007, 3:13

    the lack of pre-race build up is no loss in oz! we dont get it anyways
    we join martin and james as the last car is gridding up and our hosts ramble on about things we already know until then! nor do we get gp2 races or live f1 races! so anything is a bonus for us

  4. Even if HD was being broadcast in the UK, a lot of us won’t have the equipment to watch it. I for one can’t justify paying a three-figure sum for a TV when our family haven’t paid more than £50 for one for as long as I can remember. Since I can’t get ITV on digital anyway due to the area I live in (another common problem), I can see the cinema option being reasonably popular with dedicated F1 fans well into next decade. However, I do agree with Keith’s sentiment that this option won’t be around forever.

    It would be nice to go to at least one cinematic F1 race while they are still running. I’ll just have to wait until F1 reaches the Sheffield silver screen (that being the only Vue in a reasonable range). I wonder if the cinema would allow me to take my green folder in to write my usual race notes?

  5. I watched the British GP in my local Vue. The audio was amazing. The visuals were very impressive. The commentary was awful. After a while I just blanked the commentators out.

  6. Danny woolli said on 23rd July 2007, 17:30

    i went to my local vue and the sound was quilty was good as was the picture but i dont think it was that special not as good as the ITV coverage witht all the pre race build up the cinema versian is the same as what you get on the big screans at the actual GP

    Bring back murry walker!!1

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