A cinema experience

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.)

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26 thoughts on “A cinema experience

  1. And here I am looking forward to going to the cinema in a few days (that is, if things push through as we planned). It’s been more than a decade since I watch a movie on the big screen. This afternoon, Titanic was shown on My Movie Channel on tv and I watched it again, more than three hours of watching something uninterrupted, in the comfort of home, a lovely way to spend idle hours. Looking forward to your film review.

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    1. I hope that your cinema is better than the one here Arlene, but I am sure you will enjoy the outing anyway. The review is on the way. I am still working on the draft at the moment.
      Best wishes, Pete

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  2. I don’t go to movie theaters anymore. I just wait until a film I really want to see comes out on DVD. I like the subtitle feature, being able to pause, and having the luxury of watching a film many times. It just requires some patience to wait for a film to become available for home viewing. Right now, for example, the film I’m most anxious to see is “EX_MACHINA.” I should mention, though, that I sometimes have the option of borrowing a film from the local library. That’s how I saw “Gravity,” for instance.
    Pete, I think it’s great that you have a personal connection to a film, though your viewing was not ideal. Alas, I do not personally know anyone connected with the movie industry. However, I’ve had the (now ancient) privilege of watching the late Tony Scott set up and film a scene for “Domino” (inside the Stratosphere hotel/casino in Las Vegas), have met and talked at length with two stars from “Like Water for Chocolate” (Mario Iván Martínez; Claudette Maillé), and have watched Paul Newman mingle with his production crew on “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” at two different film locations in Kansas City.That brings up another tenuous connection: film locations. Taking westerns as an example, I particularly enjoy watching “The Stalking Moon” (Red Rock Canyon) and “The Professionals” (Valley of Fire State Park) because I’ve spent a lot of time at the exact locations where they were filmed..

    Pete, I always enjoy reading your film reviews. I look forward to reading your review of the film you saw in Dereham. Perhaps you will buy it on DVD so that you can watch it again in the comfort, convenience, and quiet of your living room.

    P.S.–Having just finished reading this morning the French translation of Orson Scott Card’s novelization of James Cameron’s screenplay for “The Abyss,” I decided to (yet again) watch the film (DVD special edition) this afternoon.

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    1. You are lucky to be close to all those impressive locations David, though I would have thought that you might also have some good alternative cinemas over there.
      I hope that you enjoy ‘The Abyss’ again, my review of the film I saw is in draft.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. We are not big cinema goers, but since moving to Ludlow we have gone to our local several times. The movies are generally several months old, but the screen is big, the audience usually our age and we can take a glass of wine in too 🙂
    It’s actually a very pleasant experience, especially as it is less than a five minute walk from our house!

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  4. Pete, oh my I totally agree with you about the noise of people chomping away at food, all with their mouths opened widely, and the cell phones too. I’ve stopped going as well the the cinema for those reasons and the constant talking makes me wonder why these folks even went to the movie at all.. Most never even see the movie that’s being shown on the screen.. But, I’m happy you managed to get a cool picture of the experience. You must post that in your next post…. we all wanna see… wink

    Take care and happy blogging to ya, from Laura ~

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    1. The photo is on my wife’s Facebook Laura, so I have no idea how I can access it. I might be able to sort it one day…We should all boycott cinemas that sell too much food, and allow cellphones!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. Pete, I agree about the too much food and the cell phones. Or, perhaps have separate viewing areas like they long ago use to do for smokers.. Glass caged in with an exhaust fan. It was actually funny to see the smokers in the mall all gathering with their coffee’s inside these glass boxes.. reminded me of glass coffins, hum… I wonder why…

        Laura

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    2. Until 2012, I would have been one of those sitting in the ‘reserved’ area of the cinema, or segregated section of the shopping mall. I find the smell of the food so off-putting, when I am trying to enjoy a film. Mind you, it’s the same on a bus or train. I don’t ever recall eating hot meals in enclosed public spaces being appropriate manners for that situation!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. We stopped going to the large cinemas ages ago for the same reasons; too noisy, too many people, phones and the constant noise from snack packaging.. https://goo.gl/Nzz9NG ..
    Thankfully we have an everyman cinema near us and we are not too far from the imax at Waterloo.
    They’re a bit pricey but its a much nicer experience.
    Looking forward to your review.

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  6. Pete-
    Very much enjoyed your piece.Actually seeing a film in a theatre is becoming increasingly painful, and that has little to do with the actual film. It’s an odd, extended trend, this transformation of the cinema to become more like watching films in the living room (do we really need all of the non-trailer advertisements?). In the past, it was exactly the opposite, especially in the 50’s (hence the introduction Cinemascope, Cinerama, the original 3d, etc.), with the development of technologies that might enhance the theatrical experience and actually drag people away from the upstart television and the comfort of home. This more recent movement with the addition of electric easy chairs and in-theatre dining (my local cinema has been changed into a gastronomic amusement park with film an apparent inconvenient afterthought, how bizarre) is an extremely short-sighted vision and seemingly suicidal for the generation of a new age of movie fans whose primary purpose in actually going to the cinema is not simply to find an alternate location for a continuance of their boorish household behavior. How does one watch “Lawrence of Arabia” on an I-phone anyway? (And with foreign films, don’t the tiny subtitles tend to resemble rambling DNA strains?)

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  7. Here in Penistone we have the Penistone Paramount that is a wonder. http://www.penistoneparamount.co.uk/ I adore that cinema. They have a break in the middle of the film, a licensed bar (I don’t drink alcohol, but a break is not always a bad thing, and of course you can have ice-creams too), they have a cinema organ and concerts and regularly feature amateur and professional theatre production and concerts, etc. Last year it was 100 years old. I’ve been the only person in a cinema before, and I remember going to watch ‘Agora’ with my friend Iman in one of the small art cinemas in Barcelona (Casablanca, sadly disappeared since) and we were the only two. In fact, they opened the screen (it had two) for us. I can get to the Showroom in Sheffield that shows world cinema and some other multi-cinemas, but if something is coming to Penistone, I wait.

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  8. Glad you saw the funny side of it. I used to go to a little cinema in Hyde Park (Leeds) mostly to films I didn’t understand! My favourite was the Cine de France in Jersey, it was privately owned and enough people asked for a film the owner would screen it. Armchair seats, beer and smoking allowed, heaven 🙂

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