Cut Away

I hadn’t been near a cinema for months, but this weekend I managed to catch two films on the big screen; a belated viewing of summer hit Inception at the multiplex, and a late-night screening of The Social Network, with drinks and friends, at our local arthouse movie theatre.

I’ll review the films themselves in later posts, but for now I’ll just wax nostalgic about how my movie-going habits have changed over the years.

My earliest memories of the medium are of going to the Saturday morning shows at the long-vanished art-deco cinema that once stood on the seedier side of our town centre. It had a vast auditorium, that could sit something like two thousand people, which would be packed full of hyped-up kids, buzzing on the sugar from the bags of cheap sweets on sale in the foyer. We would see a few cartoons, an old serial like Buck Rogers or King of the Rocket Men, and one feature, usually something from The Children’s Film Foundation, which were usually pretty imaginative, or occasionally an old Hollywood action movie; I remember a showing of Kelly’s Heroes that inspired our playground games for weeks afterwards. This was all in the mid-70’s, not long before the rising popularity of Saturday morning kids’ TV more or less killed off the picture shows. I enjoyed staying in on a cold morning and watching the box as much as anybody else, but I did miss the social aspect of the cinema a bit.

In my early teens I would go with friends, or the occasional date, about once a month to see mainstream movies, and towards the end of high school I started to get into independent cinema. It was when I left home to go to University that my cinema addiction really kicked in though; I joined the campus film society, which screened five or six movies each week in term time, and I often skipped classes to catch matinee shows at the arthouse, so I must have been seen well over 500 films during my college years, from just about all genres. Once I started working I had to cut back a bit, but I still caught a film most weekends, and occasionally would go on little binges when I was on holiday.

Sometime over the last decade I seemed to lose the habit; now I’m in the cinema maybe ten times a year. This is partly because I’ll watch a DVD instead of going out on a Saturday, but I think it’s mainly because I have substituted internet addiction for my celluloid fix.

I do have some regrets about this; my imagination seemed to be highly stimulated when I was more immersed in film. I used to do a lot of writing when I was in college, but now this blog is about all I can manage; I haven’t penned any proper fiction for a long while. I think there is something about following a film narrative that particularly exercises the creative faculties, by demanding attention over a relatively long time. I guess reading does this too, but with a book I tend to concentrate in shorter bursts, so it doesn’t have quite the same effect, and when I’m surfing the net I’m rarely on one topic for more than a couple of minutes.

I’m going to try to make it to the cinema at least once a fortnight over the next few months; we’ll see if that revives my dormant Muse. I might even catch something at the drive in.

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