My dear people, I have some wonderful news. Last night I sat alone in total silence in a dark room with some strangers for the first time in over a year. It was utterly thrilling to be back in a cinema again. Oh, purveyor of dreams and fantasies, how I’ve missed you. The smell of the popcorn, the plethora of adverts to get through, the frisson of excitement as the lights dim and the curtains swish open. The collective adventure.
I understand the appeal of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV etc, but nothing compares to the cinematic experience. You are forced to concentrate. No pausing while you make a cup of cocoa or pop to the loo. Unless you are in Malta of course. Intermissions died out in the West during the nineteen fifties. Originally needed to replace reels, modern technology phased them out. Cinemas in Malta, however, still freeze the proceedings at a crucial point while people rush to buy more nachos. Always takes me surprise, even after more than a decade on the island.
Even with an interruption, nothing can take away the thrill for me. What is that old saying about absence and hearts? Last night got me thinking. It is not just film I love, but cinema. At a young age in London, I would walk miles to a palace of a place on my own every Saturday afternoon to immerse myself in another world. You see, film can do many things, entertain, educate, or even thrill. But cinema will always have an air of escapism for me. I had a particularly bad day yesterday, and forgetting my troubles for a few hours was just what the doctor ordered.
I have wonderful memories of different cinematic experiences. Crying incessantly with laughter during an awfully serious film while an actor friend of mine who had the sharpest mind of his generation gave me a comedic running commentary on how awful the lead’s performance was. You are sorely missed Craig. Unexpectedly stumbling across the most beautiful Art Deco cinema I have ever seen while strolling through a sleepy town in California. I cannot recall the film showing, but I can describe the building in exquisite detail.
I often chuckle to myself over the memory of going on a disastrous date with an older gentleman who had not been to a cinema for an exceptionally long time. I was mortified as he shouted at the people behind him, insisting that they stop talking, much to their bafflement. It was a crowded cafe scene, and I politely explained that the modern invention of surround sound was causing the rumpus, not his fellow film buffs. And I was pleasantly taught the lesson of everything in context at one particular cinema in a very smart part of London. I went to see a beautiful film that made me weep like a newborn child. I decided to go again a week later and was introduced to the projectionist who very kindly took me upstairs while the film played out on the silver screen as he showed me his reels. Fascinating.
As we enter the sunniest part of the year, I am well aware that not everyone will choose to spend their time sitting in a dark room. I may be the odd one out here I know, but as a Brit who has never enjoyed the Mediterranean love of a siesta, I adore escaping the midday heat in a pitch-black air-conditioned room. Whatever your favourite time of year, I implore you to support your local cinemas now as they are open again. I hope and pray in this age of instant downloads that I am not alone in my desire to see a film in a building specifically designed to maximise the experience. I braved the rain and some howling wind in London last night to get to a wonderful cinema I often frequent when I am in town. I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did. It was more than worth it. I can only urge you to do the same, as losing these buildings would be a tragedy.