I went to the cinema recently. That’s an opener because it must be two to three years since I was last there. The Academy winner, ‘Argo’ was showing at a local multiplex. More about the film anon but the cinema experience has changed utterly. There is no longer a box-office where you get your ticket – you go to a food counter. I had to be directed there as I stood lost in the foyer, looking all around me. The assistant asked me whether I wanted standard or VIP. Perhaps she was a past pupil, doing an old man a favour. Having bought a standard ticket, she then asked, if there was anything else I needed. Whatever could she mean?
There are eight theatres in the place and I suppose there are probably twice as many in those huge Glasgow and Edinburgh buildings. I was surprised to find the auditorium empty apart from a couple at the back who seemed to be having a four course meal. As the place began to fill up, the patrons carried in huge Arkle-style buckets of pop-corn and litre drinks with them. Merchandise is clearly an important income stream and I now realised what the ticket seller’s question had meant. A school friend, Maurice, when he was allowed a boarder day out, used to meet up in the pictures with a girlfriend who would bring sandwiches to the back row of the Palace. Hence the origin of the term, butter-fingers.
Sound and image quality are now stunning, although the amplification was a little too high octane for me. ‘Argo’ certainly held interest but as with many Hollywood blockbusters, the Canadians were short- changed in the propaganda stakes. Fifty years ago in Belfast, one of our English lecturers wrote the film column for a local paper. He delegated some of the reviewing to us and payment was a free pass to the pictures. I ran a school film club thirty years ago until the pupils found that renting a ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ video from the corner shop was infinitely preferable to ‘Dumbo’ or some Children’s Film Foundation gem.
I still enjoy film a lot but my cinema outings are getting further apart. ‘Lincoln’ is showing at the MacRobert next week. I must make an effort to see it.