I’ve often thought about why movies are so important to me. Why do I love the cinema more than most other people? To this day I couldn’t tell you with 100% certainty why this is the case but I can give you my best guess. It’s the town where I lived in Canada until I was 9. More specifically the local movie theatre, the Forest Kineto theatre. This little one-screen theatre holds some of my fondest childhood memories. I saw some of my all-time favourite movies there. The Back to the Future trilogy, E.T, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the list goes on and on. I went pretty often with my parents and my sister, mainly because it was 5 minutes away from home and because it was so cheap. To this day the ticket price is just $5 Canadian, about £2.
Thinking about that little theatre made me realise just how great small town local cinemas are. It’s a damn shame that all but a very scant few have been driven out of business by the 30 screen multiplexes run by massive international companies. That’s not to say I don’t like big cinemas. I’ll still enjoy seeing a movie there. The comfort and grandeur you get there is pretty much impossible to replicate at the small town theatre. Also, because of the massive amounts of screens they have you get a lot of variety. What you lose, however in the mass of sumptuous padded, reclining seats, choice of 12 movies and £6 family size troughs of popcorn is something greater and far more important than all that. Character.
Stories like what happened to the York Odeon just make me sad. That place had character by the bucket load and was one of the best cinemas I’ve ever been to. An old style picture house where deep red curtains revealed what seemed to be a huge screen and the seating was laid out in a classic arc. Odeon closed this great cinema in 2006 in order to, no doubt, rake in bigger profits from a nearby multiplex. Thankfully, however, this year Reel, a small cinema company, bought the building and re-opened! Unfortunately stories like this are the exception to the rule.
In my opinion, character counts for a lot. It counts for more than the latest 13.1 Dolby Digital jizz-in-your-pants sound or HD, super mega hyper 3D picture. That stuff is all well and good but the places that have it are sterile, soulless cash-cows. They’ve lost sight of what the true nature of the movie theatre is. It’s not about having the biggest dick the best technology and most expensive seats. It’s about the enjoyment of going out and seeing a movie on a big screen, with other movie lovers. Nothing more, nothing less. Smaller cinemas with classic character enhance this experience better than any lavish luxury or cutting edge audio/video technology ever could.
I think it says a lot about society that theatres which totally drown out all sense of personality and community are so successful. Have we become so anti-social that we need cinemas that are kitted out like 5 star hotels to distract us from the fact we’re watching the movie in a room with other people? I thought that was the whole point… Truth be told, if I had the choice between paying £7 for a fully air-conditioned, amphitheatre style multiplex cinema ticket or £7 for a cozy, classic style theatre complete with the smell of stale popcorn and the great feeling of community like I remember from the Kineto, Odeon and Showcase would see a lot less of my money.