Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Rekindling my love of cinema-going!

From an early age, I was taken to the cinema.  We had two in my home town - the Gaumont and the ABC. 

The first film I remember vivdly is 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' which my Grandma took me to see at the Gaumont when I was six.  I still recall the feeling of wonder I felt sitting in the darkened theatre and watching the magic unfold on the big screen.

Within a couple of years, I was attending the 'Saturday Morning Pictures' at the ABC with an older boy from our street and my younger brother.  Geoffrey, the older boy, was supposed to look after us on the bus journey into town and make sure we got home again safely, but, in reality, I always felt like I was the responsible one - after all, I was a girl!!  I loved my Saturday mornings!!  It was the highlight of my week.  We were ABC Minors (we had badges that said so!) and we even had our own song!  I came across this video on You Tube and, as soon as I heard the opening bars, I was transported back to those magical mornings!

We would sing it at the beginning and again in the interval when the compere would announce all the birthday boys and girls and throw sweets into the auditorium!  It was all very exciting!  Then there were the movies.  The morning's programme would be made up of cartoons, ongoing serials such as 'The Lone Ranger', 'Zorro' and 'Flash Gordon', an old comedy such as 'The Three Stooges' or 'Laurel and Hardy', and a Norman Wisdom or a Children's Foundation film.  One of these films that I particularly remember is 'The Boy Who Turned Yellow'!

I can't remember now whether the Saturday morning matinees stopped before we moved out of town, or whether I couldn't continue going because we moved out of town, but, either way, I was devastated!  Filling my Saturday mornings with 'Multi-Coloured Swap Shop' just wasn't the same!

Throughout my teens, there were several iconic films that stick in my mind - 'Jaws', 'Moonraker' (which I saw with my Dad, the biggest James Bond fan ever!), 'The Blue Lagoon', 'Breaking Glass' (the soundtrack from which I still play today) and the greatest of them all (to my teenage mind!), 'Grease'!! 

I saw all of these films at one or other of the aforementioned cinemas in town, but we also had a local 'flicks' in the small town where I went to school.  The Rio Cinema in Epworth was a place to meet friends and gossip about who was cosying up to who on the back row!  We were disciplined by a 'jobsworth' in a peaked hat who shone his torch along the rows constantly to catch underage smokers!  I have no recollection of any films I saw there - in fact, the only memory I have of the screen was watching the film melting when the equipment overheated, as it did on a regular basis!!

When I was sixteen, my Dad accepted a job in Paris and we moved there!  Oh, the glamour!  For the next two years, all the films I saw were in one of the many cinemas along the Champs Elysees.  I loved walking the length of the avenue looking at all of the film advertising hoardings and learning the names of French movie stars - Gerard Depardieu, Alain Delon, Yves Montand, Jean-Paul Belmondo...  The most famous poster was for 'Emanuelle' starring Sylvia Kristel.  This film had been made in 1974, but was still being shown in a Champs Elysees cinema in the early 80s.  I didn't see it then and haven't seen it now, but the advertising image is burned into my brain!

My friends and I would scour the listings in 'Time Out', looking for the magic letters - v.o. - version originale.  Films I particularly remember from this time are 'Arthur', 'Chariots of Fire''Gandhi'  'Raiders of the Lost Ark''For Your Eyes Only' (another one for Dad & I!), 'E.T.', and the classic 'An Officer and a Gentleman'!

After doing my A-levels in Paris, I took a gap year, during which I don't think cinema featured that much, but when I went to university in Manchester in 1984, one of the first clubs I joined in 'Freshers' Week' was 'The Film Society'.  We would watch mostly foreign language films in a small room in the Students' Union building and then discuss them.  It was all very pretentious and I can't say I enjoyed it that much!  My membership ended the following year when a new arts venue opened in Manchester and I got a part-time job there working behind the bar in the evenings.  It was 1985 and it was The Cornerhouse.  It opened to a big fanfare and critical acclaim.  Channel 4 was one of the backers and it felt really exciting to be a part of it all.  In the days before the explosion in the popularity of wine bars, our bar was new and fresh and attracted the great and the good of Manchester's thriving arts scene.  The Cornerhouse was a centre for contemporary arts and independant cinema.  The three screening rooms were all quite small and had an intimate feel.  I loved watching films there, especially as I got discount or even free access if there were available seats!  A couple of memorable movies I saw there are 'My Beautiful Laundrette' and 'A Room with a View'.

In the years after graduation, I gradually got out of the habit of going to the cinema.  I don't really know why - too busy, my husband at the time didn't like going, too far to the nearest cinema, etc., etc..  Then, in 1996, I met my now husband, Mark, and for one of our first 'dates' he suggested we went to the cinema to see the new blockbuster that everyone was raving about, 'Evita'.  We went to a new multiplex, the first time I'd been to such an establishment.  It was all very glossy and exciting and the seats in the auditorium were so comfortable.  There was even a special place in the arm to put your drink!!  When the film started, however, it was terrible!!  It was soooooooooooo loud!!  I could feel the sound through every part of me - it still makes me shudder when I think about it now, all these years later!  We stayed for the whole film (don't ask me why!) and by the time we came out, I was completely deaf!  I had such pain in my ears and my head.  I didn't recover my hearing properly for almost a month.  It was an evening that was to put me off cinema-going for a very long time - until a few weeks ago, in fact!!

During the intervening 16 years between cinema visits, we kept up with what was going on in the world of movies.  For the first few years, we were always way behind the times as we waited for films to be released on DVD or shown on TV.  We saw many of the most famous movies of the era on a tiny screen on an aircraft!  Later, as lead times between cinema and DVD releases became shorter, we felt more up-to-date and, later still, sometimes dodgy downloads satisfied our desire to see certain films almost as soon as they were shown in the cinema.  I was never tempted back into a movie theatre, though!  The horror of that night back in 1996 was too much!

So, which film enticed us back into the cinema?  Well, it was 'Skyfall', the first Bond movie released since my Dad's death.  We were sitting having breakfast in a restaurant in Saigon during one of our regular weekends in the city & I was flicking through the day's copy of Vietnam News.  I saw the cinema listings and, having no other plans for the morning, we decided to go!  Finding out where the nearest cinema was and what time the showings were was straightforward in an age of mobile internet connection.  It was with some trepidation that I entered the cinema, though, especially knowing how keen the Vietnamese are on anything loud and noisy!  I needn't have worried, however.  We spent a very pleasant morning in a comfortable cinema watching an enjoyable movie.  I was blown away by the impact of seeing the film on the big screen.  I had forgotten how good it could be and realised what I'd been missing all these years!!

Since then, we have seen several films, both in Saigon and Hanoi, including 'Life of Pi' and 'Jack Reacher'.  Then, this last weekend, with Mark away in England, I spent both Saturday and Sunday mornings alone in the cinema watching 'Les Miserables' and 'The Impossible'.  I was struck again by the range of emotions which can be evoked by watching moving images in a darkened room and vowed that such experiences will feature as an important part of my leisure time in future.


  1. I watch a movie every night...at home and once in a while in the cinema like Life of Pi and The Hobbit and Les Miz. Some movies are best viewed on the big screen :-)

    1. Thanks for reading and for commenting, Tara! At the moment, having 're-discovered' cinema, I'm at that stage where I think every movie is best seen on the big screen!! I'm sure that will wear off when the impracticality of regular trips into Saigon hits home!! :-)

  2. Just discovered that I had a copy of my long-lost comment in my email :) Hope it was worth the wait!

    What a fascinating story Andrea! I don't think you ever forget your first cinema experience. Mine was Cool Runnings, and the main thing I remember is my parents driving round and round the one-way system in Telford trying to get in to the cinema!
    Until I was about fifteen, I could list all of the films I had seen at the cinema. My obsession with films really kicked in when I went to Malaysia on my gap year. I had two weeks at the end of my volunteering, but very little money, so I ended up going to the cinema 7 times. I still remember what I saw: Shrek 2, twice (definitely worth the second trip), Troy, twice (definitely not!), Van Helsing, The Day After Tomorrow and Secret Window. An eclectic mix that reflects the range of my taste in films!
    Now, I can often still remember where I was when I saw something. The cinema is my default entertainment, when I don't really know what to do. When I first arrived in South America, it took me about six weeks to find a cinema, and I swear I was getting withdrawal symptoms! I normally go two or three times a month, alone if noone else wants to go. When I'm not at the cinema, I watch DVDs too. And as if that weren't enough, one of my favourite podcasts is Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's film reviews from BBC 5 Live :) I think you'd like it - it always makes me laugh.
    Skyfall was amazing, the best Bond ever in my opinion. I've seen Jack Reacher and Life of Pi, and Les Mis is on my list, as is The Hobbit and Quartet.
    Great to find a fellow cinema fan!

    (I saw Les Mis after I wrote the original comment - it was great! Enjoyed the Hobbit too, but wasn't so impressed - why make three films, when it's only one book?)

    1. Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I relate to so much of what you write. I love my weekly dose of Wittertainment, too and hate it when someone breaks the code in a screening I am in!! :-)

      Finally got to see Quartet last week. I thoroughly enjoyed the portrayals of retired musicians by such a stellar cast!