In an age where you can download and watch a film on your phone, it’s quite a feat that cinemas are still going strong. Most large towns and cities around Britain will still have a reminder of cinema’s golden age, when huge art-deco buildings were erected as altars to the silver screen. Sadly, many of those old cinemas that managed to survive are now bingo halls, indoor markets and bar/restaurants. However, despite the arrival of videos, dvds, internet streaming and on-demand, people still enjoy going to the cinema to watch the latest releases on the big screen with sound surround, feeling every thump, crash and obligatory helicopter flying overhead. Multiplexes became the thing, with up to a dozen films on offer, once you had negotiated the shopping mall entrance offering all manner of food, drink, sweets, pop corn and ice cream. (Why is it, that despite all the healthy lifestyle and anti-obesity advice bombarding us, at the cinema we are encouraged to eat and drink ALL the wrong stuff, while slumped in a chair for three hours?)
The latest incarnation is the cinema where you arrive early to enjoy a couple of drinks, eat a great big gourmet burger, accompanied by a shovel-load of chunky chips, or maybe a bucket of cheese nachos all topped off with an ice cream sundae that really should come with two spoons. Then an ever-so-polite usher arrives to tell you the film is about to start and leads you into the ambiently lit auditorium. You are then seated on a huge, comfy sofa which has enough leg room for you to stretch your legs out. Right out. The lights dim, the huge stage curtains pull back and so starts a quarter of an hour of adverts. You sink deeper into the sofa. A short pause then trailers are shown for upcoming film releases to drag you back in a couple of weeks’ time. You realise you really can stretch right out now. And there’s a recline button which makes a leg rest come up and the seat back tilt, so you can get properly comfortable. The curtains close. A dramatic silence and the room is pitch black. Not sure if you are awake or not, the military snare drum of the 20th Century Fox theme jolts your senses, but then the soothing strings accompanying the film’s opening titles remind you of the perfectly comfortable state you are in. The alcohol, the stodgy food, the soft comfy seat and your perfectly reclined position. You have become attuned to the darkness and now not even the flickering of the screen, as the film comes to life, can stop you sinking deeper and deeper, eyelids heavy, you drift off in contented bliss….Suddenly, you start to see this really bright light. There’s music. Loud music. Noise everywhere, you become aware of people are moving around you. Someone’s calling your name. Your eyes squint to make out the closing titles scrolling up the film screen. There’s a trail of dribble coming from the corner of your mouth. and then your eyes open properly to see your other half was the one calling your name. To your eternal shame, you realise you’ve slept through the entire film and, overwhelmed by a sudden horror, you ask, “Was I…”., before a snappy interruption, “Yes, you blimmin’ were, you were snoring the whole way through?!?!?!”.