Forget the streaming wars – nothing compares to the experience of cinema
I stumbled upon an old clip of Stephen Fry on Graham Norton Show the other day, where he discussed the launch of his book, Heroes. He says he had written the book in a way that could contribute to the idea of the “fireplace” – the gathering of friends and family to get together and tell stories.
“I think we can safely say that we have lost the fireplace – we do not eat round tables anymore … no one gathers around and shares stories anymore,” he says.
Despite my immortal and unwavering respect for the man, I’m afraid I have to disagree with him on one thing he said. He rightly points out that in today’s world it is increasingly difficult to recreate this idea, this gathering of people and the sharing of experiences, but I refuse to admit that we have lost it completely.
To me, cinema is my fireplace. A place to go with partners, family or friends, to sit for a few hours and be told a story. In my head, nothing compares to the lights being dimmed, the other excited moviegoers rushing to cheer each other on, and the look of the film’s title with the sign of some unknown movie director (why do we need to see that?).
During the pandemic, I reacted strongly to what Mr Fry had said. I felt like I had lost the hearth. The introduction of share-play to Netflix and Disney + did not fill the gaping hole after the cinemas that were closed. The endless weekly Zoom quizzes worked for a while, but quickly became tiring. For many, the pandemic gave them room to reconsider things, to see what they missed most in “normal life”; this was no different for me. Covid allowed me to see how big a role cinema plays in my life.
To repeat and perhaps add to what Mr Fry said, going to the cinema is an event – something to build an evening around. It’s not “let’s see what’s on tv” with a takeaway in your lap. It does not stop for me.
I gave options a try – looked at Black Widow at Disney + Premier Access at home. I found myself halfway wishing I had chosen to spend my free time on something else. For a while afterwards, I thought it was just not the right movie to watch at home, but then I threw my thoughts back to a couple of months earlier. Shortly after the second lockdown, I had the pleasure of watching Godzilla v. Kong at a cinema. Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either, Looks like BT aint for me either, Looks like BT aint for me either. Atlantic coast or Sharknado on top of that mountain, however), but I certainly loved it.
It felt new and familiar at once. Sitting in a room littered with strangers and a stench of cheap popcorn, the rustling of wrappers and the one person in the front row talking only one a little Too loud. The imperfections make it so much more sympathetic. I was too busy bathing in the atmosphere of my surroundings to notice much about the film.
I had lived a fairly sheltered life in the film world before I became enlightened, and only enjoyed movies at my local Vue or Odeon. I owe my partner a lot for having introduced me to the Everyman cinema chain, where you can be served beer and wine to your seat if, as I did with Kongyou needed a little extra refreshment to ease you through the view.
As much as I wish I was, I’m not a movie lover. You will not find any insightful movie analysis from this guy. I guess then it emphasizes how important it is experience is for me – I do not go for the movies, I go for the occasion, the acting. Had I seen Black Widow at a movie theater instead of at home, I definitely think I would have had tenfold pleasure.
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Of course it helps if you do enjoy the movie you go to see. I fondly remember the pilgrimage to the Imax cinema in London to see the release of each new Harry Potter. In the same way, I remember shedding a tear with my father on the incredible montage that was played before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker where Anthony Daniels emotionally said goodbye to his character C-3PO. Everyone who saw Ascension at the cinema can probably confirm the fact that every single member of the audience gave a collective happy sigh when the beautiful Aston Martin DB5 was revealed in the dingy garage.
Most recently, as I struggled through a chaotic first week in a new job, I managed to find time to watch Top Gun: Maverick with my dad on his birthday. Although it was obviously a fabulous film, the real joy came from watching my father bask in the nostalgia it gave him. He was like a child in a candy store – flirting insanely all the way and teasing me excitedly and whispering-shouting: “It was in the original!”, Every five minutes.
Such experiences and memories – the laughter, the moans, the screams, the sighs – are what make me go back and spend half my salary on a Tango Ice Blast and a medium popcorn. What are you saying? The big one is only a kilo extra? Oh, then continue.
So, my winding journey through this article has taken me back to where I started – to Mr Stephen Fry. I hope in part that I have demonstrated that there is evidence of the hearth of today’s society, and more importantly, that I have convinced some readers that £ 11 for all these experiences and memories is worth it – even if the blackmailing popcorn is not.