Last week, long-time Cineplex pre-show host Tanner Zipchen announced on his personal Twitter account that he had been let go from his position. UK-based media conglomerate Cineworld had just acquired Cineplex, and a change in the Canadian market had been expected. Yet, Zipchen’s legacy remains divisive. The McGill Tribune debates whether Zipchen’s departure is an ultimate blow or a win for Canadian moviegoers.
Tanner Zipchen had no plan
2011 will go down in history as one of the most innovative years in the history of cinema. No, I am not referring to the cinematic masterpiece known as Drive, nor the technical marvel of Scorsese’s Hugo. Instead, we can only admire 2011 as the year where the expression ‘early bird gets the worm’ came true. Alas, the Cineplex pre-show as we knew it was born.
Everyone remembers their first time; going to see Crazy, Stupid, Love alone without anyone to stop you. You arrive at the theatre 10 minutes early, popcorn, drink, and Maltesers in hand. You sit down in your non-reclining seat and think to yourself: “What am I going to do with the next 10 minutes of my life?” Suddenly, a disembodied voice echoes through the theatre: “Download the Timeplay app for prizes and more!” Time freezes; you know what needs to be done. You open your iPhone 4S and click ‘Download’ just in time for the quiz questions to start. A few minutes later, you see your name on the big screen, signifying that you are the Timeplay champion. Nothing can stop you now; you have become a Timeplay god.
Fast forward to 2015. The pre-show begins, and you immediately notice that Marc Saltzman is not performing his brief reviews of tech that you were never going to buy; Gear Guide is gone. Suddenly, what appears to be a somewhat good-looking 20-something named Tanner Zipchen manifests on the screen and announces himself as the “casting call winner,” whatever that means. He starts to interview famous people, pretending he belongs. He does not. He interviews Toni Collette and says he had a nightmare about her. He has no followup. It’s creepy. He never had a plan.
In 2016, you start to show up to movies on time, you no longer arrive early, and skip the pre-show.
Tanner Zipchen still has no plan. He came, he ruined Timeplay and the pre-show with his casual, innocent obnoxiousness, and now he leaves, his name perpetually fastened to the very thing he sought to destroy.
In defence of Tanner Zipchen
Canada’s collective heart broke on Jan. 13, as a tweet that would ring out across the country was published.
“Today, I was let go from Cineplex [and] am no longer the host of the pre-show,” the tweet from former Cineplex pre-show host Tanner Zipchen read. “Thank you for all the love and support over the years, especially those who’ve been with me since the voting days. It’s been an honour being a part of your group hangouts, date nights, & family outings.”
Zipchen connected with a new generation of Canadians who felt that he was one of them. In 2015, when Cineplex hosted an open casting call, and moviegoers got to vote for their favourite pre-show host, Zipchen won the vote.
“He’s a core part of the Canadian experience,” Sophia Kamps, U3 Arts, shared in an interview with The McGill Tribune.
Indeed, Zipchen truly represented the diversity that Canada so loves. Hailing from Saskatoon, Zipchen brought one of the most under-represented groups of Canadians to the big screen: Saskatchewanians. As he grew into his onscreen role of game host and interviewer over the years, Canada realised that they made the right choice in voting for him.
Now, we are left with an undeniable void in our moviegoing experience. There is no one to represent us on red carpets and press junkets. There is no one to tell us to turn off our phones. And, most importantly, the comforting voice that encouraged us to log on to the TimePlay app is gone. A heartless UK-based company, Cineworld, has taken a key thread in the fabric of contemporary Canadian life and torn it out. Canada will recover, but we will never forget.