I grew up in a small town called Dursley, which apart from being the place one of UK’s biggest serial killers was tried and a vague connection to Harry Potter hasn’t got a lot going for it. The town cinema had shut down some time in the early 70’s so if you wanted to see a film you had to travel to Gloucester (the nearest city). As my folks didn’t drive at the time this meant going to the pictures was a big deal. Because of this apart from a few sporadic trips as a small child I didn’t get to go a lot until I was a teenager when both myself and my friends were trusted to make the bus trip on our own.
Saturday mornings we would meet at 9am and make the hour journey to Gloucester via bus. Dursley also lacked anything in the way of shops so a trip to The Hobbit Hole (the only geek shop at the time) followed by a morning trawling through second hand book and record shops was always on the agenda.
The Regal was a small cinema, with only 4 screens and not even enough room in the foyer to queue, so you had to wait outside to be let in. While queuing talk would turn to which snack food you were getting, popcorn and hot dogs were not common in 80’s Britain and the cinema was the only place you could get them, like the film itself they were a real treat.
Finally you would be let inside to take your seat and after 10 minutes of trailers the film would begin. No one spoke during the duration, no one dared, unlike today where cell phones and in film conversation is rampant there was an unspoken agreement among the patrons that if you had paid to see the film nothing should ruin the enjoyment. It was almost like seeing a film in the cinema was a privilege not a right, so much so that I kept every ticket stub for every film I ever saw. Once home I would add the stub to a folder and write underneath when I saw the film, who with and if I had enjoyed it. And if that does not show you how important films were to me as a kid – nothing will.
So why the nostalgia trip? We now live in an on demand world. There is no challenge to searching out something you want to see, If you miss a film in the cinema you don’t have to wait six months to catch in on video, hell you can download a film from the net before it reaches the cinema if you are that way inclined. It’s been said before by better men than me but the modern film fan does not have to seek out midnight showings of obscure movies, they can do it all from the comfort of their own home, and that I
think is a shame.
Don’t get me wrong I love my home theatre and spend many a Sunday afternoon watching a great movie on the sofa, and I’m not saying how you see the film is more important that the movie itself, but I don’t think its the whole picture. There is a certain magic to seeing a great film on the big screen, part of that magic is making the effort to go, buying a hot dog or popcorn, choosing a good seat and watching the previews. It’s chatting with your friends while deciding what to see next, its knowing you can’t
pause the film so if you need the toilet you will miss something, its queuing up for that midnight showing of the latest blockbuster.
The cinema is in our blood, it shaped out childhood and it (for me) it has always made movies that little bit more special.