Saturday, February 04, 2006

Why We Don't Go To The Cinema Much Any More

...or is it 'the movies' nowadays? I know you're not asked to take your rubbish or your litter with you when leaving, but your 'trash'. And most 'movies' are trash, but they're not my trash. My trash is the wrapping around the sandwich which I smuggle into the 'movie theater' to eat whilst the trailers are on. I think 'trailer trash' is the correct term.

It was so different in the eighties, when I haunted London's independent cinemas. It was so pleasant and middle class, not at all what I was used to in my local smelly Odeons.

In the eighties, on a Sunday afternoon, or during the week after work if I was feeling awake, I would head off to Camden Town, King's Cross, Covent Garden, Bloomsbury, Hampstead, Soho... Christ, there were so many of them. I bought my ticket, sat in a comfy chair with a piece of carrot cake and a nice cup of filter coffee. Or maybe a stem ginger and vanilla Loseley ice cream in a tub. Sat down and read my book or my copy of City Limits or Time Out or NME, sitting there like Little Jack Horner, all quiet and satisfied.

I would choose my own seat, making sure I didn't intrude on anybody's space as I settled down. I drank the dregs of my coffee as the few trailers played. The film usually started pretty promptly. I read the subtitles, watched the action, read and watched, read and watched, eyes down and eyes up for a very pleasant hour and a half, maybe the odd tear or two as I read the credits all the way to the end so that no one could see my red eyes.

Now, in these days of DVDs and widescreen tvs, we can't be bothered to traipse all the way up to London to one of the few independent cinemas that are left. But a couple of times a year, we still go to the cinema...the multiplex.


We go to the local in-town multiplex. We're going to see the sensitive gay love story, Brokeback Mountain. They take our money. They don't care where we sit. We sit through twenty minutes of trailers and the film starts. There are some teenagers smoking. No one says anything. On the screen, two men kiss. The teenagers say "Fucking queers" and start playing up. Nobody says anything to them. There is no security. The film is ruined. SO WE DON'T GO TO OUR LOCAL IN-TOWN MULTIPLEX.


We go to a multiplex we have to drive to get to. We pay our money. Once our tickets are collected, we're on our own. But because everybody's had to drive there, there aren't gangs of fourteen year olds hopping from screen to screen. We walk into darkness. We are supposed to sit in seats J17 and J 18. We can see the numbers on the seats but we can't see which row is which. It's too dark. We are at the head of a queue to find row J. We ask a seated customer, "Which row are you in?"
He says, "M. Row J is two rows down."
We take his word for it even though we work out that row J should be three rows down. We lead the pack and settle down in the seats.
"Excuse me," says a customer shining his own personal torch. "You're in my seat."

Now in the real row J, we settle down to thirty-five minutes of trailers of films these jokers think we'll be interested in. All introduced by the same deep American voice which has been doing the voiceovers for trailers since the dawn of celluloid. These knobs must all be from the same family, like the Lassie dogs.

And then the trailer for the film North Country...



"ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE, WOODY HARRELSON!" Never mind, Woody. Better luck with this one.



We laugh out loud. We are the only ones in the cinema to find this funny. Old Brokenback Mountain's going to be an anticlimax after this.

And it is.


  1. The last movie I saw in a first-run theatre was Star Wars Episode III. I remember as a kid, my brother and I saw the Star Wars movies several times. We would stand in line for hours to do so. One of us would run and get lunch to bring back while the other held the place in line.
    I saw Episode III exactly once and then rode home listening to my son bitching about what an asswipe George Lucas is and pointing out all the plot holes!
    It was a fun movie but I guess I didn't find it worth going back for a second viewing. And actually, my son's complaints were accurate.
    If nothing else, I loathe George Lucas for altering the original Star Wars films!

  2. The cinemas in Canada are in the same sorry state as yours.