Cinema Paradiso?

It is my husband’s birthday today, so for a birthday treat, last night we went out for a meal followed by a trip to the cinema to see The Revenent.  Good grief it was bleak. ‘Visceral’ was the word that we agreed upon as the best description, though for me, despite the quite magnificent scenery and wonderful cinematography, ‘cold, violent, misery’, were the three words that came to mind.

However, it led me to muse on how my cinema experiences have changed over the years.

The town I lived in when I was a gel, boasted three cinemas (with just one screen each).  The biggest and best was the very grand Granada Tooting, which had a sweeping carpeted Hollywood style staircase, and when you had a seat in the ‘circle’ upstairs, you got the pleasure of walking along a corridor lined on both sides with practically full length mirrors in gilded fancy frames.  Thus you were able to see hundreds of reflections of yourself treading the red (of course) carpet.  It’s still there, but sadly, now used as a bingo hall.  I found a bit of video about it which you might like to see:

Granada tooting wurlitzer

The Granada’s famous Wurlitzer organ

The Granada was famous for it’s organ (mysteriously not mentioned in that video clip!), which rose majestically from the depths of the building during the intermissions. Of course, it was originally used for accompanying silent movies, but I’m not quite old enough to have witnessed that.  Anyway, I do remember that splendid time between the ‘B’ movie, pathe news, and the main feature, when the organ played and we ran down to join the queues to buy tubs of ice cream and watered down orange juice from ladies in uniform standing at the end of the aisles with trays. (If you’re interested, you can read a bit more about the Granada’s history by clicking here)

The ‘B’ movie and pathe news faded out over the course of time, replaced initially by cheaply made adverts for local restaurants and hairdressers, with the wooden looking owners valiantly reading from a script behind the cameras inviting you to visit.  They were a hoot.

I used to go to the cinema almost every week in those days.  Partially because my friend Linda’s mum worked as the cashier and occasionally allowed us in for free.  I have no idea if she was breaking the rules or if it was one of her official perks.  Actually, I didn’t care, as long as I got a free pass to watch the magic of the big screen.

We’d watch anything from musicals to mickey mouse, with westerns thrown in.

We rarely go these days, partly because of the exorbitant cost, and partly because it’s a forty minute drive to the nearest cinema.  Still, if there’s a film we want to see, or for special occasions, we make the effort.

Of course, now, there is just the one film preceded by about three quarters of an hour of adverts that you already see on TV and trailers of films that you have no interest in.  So we buy half a ton of popcorn and some m & m’s along with a gallon of coca cola to see us through that bleak time.  Because we don’t go often we treat ourselves to the VIP seats, which are virtually the same as the other seats but with a bit more width and legroom, and crucially, a place in the armrest to park your popcorn.

The whole experience is better I guess.  The screen bigger, the sound amazing, the seats being tiered so you always get a perfect uninterrupted view.  Well, most people always get an uninterrupted view.  Me, well, I haven’t mentioned it before, but I come with my own personal phenomenon.

You see, when I go to a cinema, or theatre, or anywhere where I am required to sit in rows with other people, I get a great seat with a clear view of the goings-on, right up until the minute before whatever it is starts, then a hulking great brute of a man (or woman, don’t want to be sexist here) comes and sits in the seat in front of me so that, if I’m lucky, I have to peer through their parting for the whole event, but more often than not, I have to sit with my head to one side to try and see anything but the back of their head.

For instance, last night we had great seats.  As the lights went down there was actually no-one sitting directly in front of me, and I was thinking how pleasant it was that the seats had high enough backs so that no distracting heads came above the tops, when a bloke, who was clearly nearly seven foot tall shimmied along the row in front and plonked himself down yep, in the seat in front of me. I kid you not, those fantastic sweeping shots of the wilderness were interrupted by this blokes massive bonce, and I left with a crick in my neck from craning to the side to be able to read the subtitles.  Boooo big tall man.  Big tall men ought to have to sit in the back row in my opinion.

Anyhoo, we still enjoyed (endured?) the film, but I was glad to get home and get tucked up in my cosy hor… sorry, bed, to get over the chill of it all. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean. 😉


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