I miss the cinema. The last time I was there was 36 days ago; I saw The Invisible Man (not a bad film to finish on), and while I’ve watched a lot of films at home since then, there’s nothing that can truly compare to the joy of settling down in your seat, with the lights dimming, waiting (usually in vain) for people to stop talking, and the BBFC screen to appear.
I just love going to the pictures. When I was little, we didn’t have a cinema in our village, but there was one in the nearest town – The Rio, in Burnham on Crouch. It was the cinema that my granddad worked at, where my mum went as a teenager and discovered her love for films, and then it was where we saw everything. It’s where we saw Jurassic Park in the summer of 1993: event cinema at its absolute best. My little brother, seven at the time, had been so excited to see it; he’d collected every dinosaur toy he could get his hands on, and we sat in the front row. As the T-Rex roared her first roar, Michael leapt into my mum’s arms, terrified, and we had to move to seats much further back.
The Rio was a single-screen cinema back then (it now has a second, tiny screen, which is probably dwarfed by many people’s televisions these days). The first film I remember seeing at a multi-screen cinema (two screens in a slightly bigger town, ten miles away) was The Flintstones in 1994. It was the summer before I started secondary school, and also notable because it was the first time that I was allowed on a cinema trip with friends and without my parents.
As an adult, I mostly visit multiplexes. I’d love to be able patronise a lovely independent cinema, but there’s not that many around, and there certainly aren’t any in my neck of the woods. When I was in my early 20s, I used to go with my friends Anna and Rob to the UCI in Basildon, as it was then. It became Empire, and is now a huge Cineworld with an IMAX screen. We used to go every week, and as well as all the big releases, we used to see all sorts of unusual releases that we wouldn’t have necessarily picked.
Now, my cinema of choice is Cineworld. It’s local, and the Unlimited scheme means that I can go as often as I want without worrying about the cost. My friend Hannah and I go as often as we can manage, which is once a week when work isn’t busy, and once a month when it is.
My favourite cinema experience of recent (ish) years is when I went to see Pride at The Gate Picturehouse. I’d won some tickets in a giveaway, and I was in London for an event, so I decided to go early and take myself along to see Pride. It was the best – such a lovely cinema, and a film that has lodged itself in my heart. They played the soundtrack while we (me and about three other people) sat and waited for the film to start, and it was wonderful.
So now, as we head into week four of self-isolation, I will just have to make do with films on the sofa. Between Netflix, Prime Video, Now TV, Disney + and Mubi, I’m spoilt for choice, but what I wouldn’t give for a trip to the pictures. Until we meet again.