Since moving to Norfolk in the spring of 2012, I haven’t been to the cinema. There are a few cinemas in Norwich, but that is almost twenty miles away, and involves traffic and parking, two things I try to avoid these days. I do love films of course. This blog features a lot of posts about films and cinema, and I have a shelf-groaning collection of films on DVD, with many still yet to be unwrapped and watched.
Another reason that I haven’t been to the cinema in a long while, is because the commercial multiplex cinemas mainly show popular US films and blockbusters, alongside woeful British comedies. I don’t want to watch comic-book characters made flesh, swirling around in 3-D, as the audience sits munching all kinds of takeaway food, checking their phones for social media updates. I am a snob, at least as far as films and cinemas go, and not ashamed to admit it. Trying to find a good foreign language or ‘Art House’ film showing in Norfolk is not an easy task. Some villages have film clubs, and other places show classics on occasion; but they also involve travelling, as well as the fact that I have invariably seen the film being shown.
Tonight, Julie and I went to the cinema. It wasn’t just our first cinema trip in Norfolk, but also the first we had done together in a long while, as Julie is not a huge fan of large cinemas, with noisy sound-systems, and equally noisy audiences. But we had a reason. The son of two of our oldest friends was the producer of a film made on location in Swaffham, Necton, and Wisbech, areas not too far from here. It also had a cast including some local actors, and has won awards in Europe. With this double connection, we were happy to head off to see it screened locally, at the grandly named Dereham Hollywood Cinema.
Dereham is not much like Hollywood, and the cinema is not much like any that you would find there. Although housed in an interesting historical building, tucked away in the corner of Market Place, even its owners would have to admit that the name is something of a stretch. Converted some time ago to a three-screen ‘miniplex’, it tends to specialise in showing popular family films, with showings timed to reflect the potential audience. The film we wanted to see was showing tonight at 19.40, so we arrived ten minutes early, after finding easy parking behind the High Street. The lady cashier was friendly, but she was unable to sell us tickets ‘until the previous audience has left’. This was a new one, but we waited patiently in the tiny foyer.
Four patrons exited some minutes later, and we were served with our tickets. I was allowed a concession, due to my retirement status, saving £1.01 on the £7 ticket. We were directed to ‘Screen 3’, the smallest in the house. Once inside, we saw that it was a lamentably small screen. Very soon, screens of this size will be normal for domestic televisions. We also found that we were the only two people in the auditorium, which could probably seat 80-100. This fact was so amusing, that Julie took a photo on her phone, of me sitting alone in the front row, the empty seats stretched out behind me. The screening began with the ususal twenty minutes of advertising promotions, followed by coming attractions of new films. During this, we realised that the screen itself was actually very dirty, with large areas covered in visible grime.
Just as the film began, two more people entered, raising the total audience to four. Luckily, they did not choose to sit directly behind us, as if often the case. We sat back to enjoy the film. I had been lucky enough to attend some of the making of this film, during a location shoot at Swaffham Raceway, and this, added to the fact that we know the producer so well, made for the prospect of a very different viewing experience. Unfortunately, the two other films showing in Screens 1&2 tonight were ‘San Andreas’, a recent blockbuster disaster film, and ‘Spy’, a new American comedy. The sound of one or other of these films could easily be heard during the quieter moments of our film, and provided an unwanted and totally inappropriate soundtrack to the one we were watching.
I suppose we could have complained; left our seats, and demanded to see the manager. I get the feeling that they were only showing the film because of the local connections anyway, and I doubt they would have been able to turn down the Dolby-generated sound effects of the ‘big film’, even if they had wanted to. It was an amusing experience, but not one I will repeat in a hurry.
At least I got to see my friend’s film, and I didn’t have to go to Norwich to do it.
( I will be reviewing this film in a separate post later.)