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Silent cinema: an end of an era?
There was a time when you were guaranteed one thing when going to the cinema: silence. I don't mean the silent films that are part of film history, but the act of entering a cinema auditorium and staying silent throughout.
I used to go the cinema a lot as a child. it was pure escapism from the all the hullabaloo of city life outside. Film was my religion and the cinema was my temple. I remember me and my friend going to see Disney films when we were about twelve. If it was any good, we would stay in our seats and watch the film again. Yes there really was a time you could do such a thing in a cinema.
I loved film so much I studied it at college. My love of film continued to the point where I was being paid to review films. For a cinephile, life doesn't get much better than that.
Despite being able to go to advanced private screenings, I still visit public screenings in London now and again. And each time I have a bad experience.
it seems that going to the cinema isn't enough for the average film-goer these days. They have to have their mobile phone on and interact with others while they watch. Or like a couple I sat next to the other day, raise their arm up and point to every actor who appeared on the screen and discuss who they were. This was even more ironic by the fact that the screen is one of the largest in Europe, so pointing at it wasn't really that necessary, as it could be seen easily enough by everyone.
It's easy to blame technology, but it's not the only offender. With the experience of going to the cinema being such an expensive one these days, why do some people still insist on talking throughout? Or those who wait until the quietest part of a film to delve to the bottom of their box of popcorn to scrape up the last remaining snacks?
Even going to private screenings is becoming a problem. On several occasions, fellow journalists have felt the need to keep their phones on and check their emails every five minutes throughout screenings. it seems there is no escape.
One of my favourite cinemas was a flea-pit in London's King's Cross called the Scala. It had a huge auditorium, with seats that had clearly seen better days (as well as its own cat that you would feel brush past your legs during films), but they showed amazing double and triple bills. I saw Marliyn Monroe on that screen in a great double bill (Some Like it Hot and Niagara) and it was almost a spiritual experience. Everyone who went there remained in silence throughout. Everyone was there because they wanted to be there and enjoy the films on offer. These days seem long gone.
Although my love affair with film is still as strong as ever, my desire to watch them in a sanitised modern cinema is dwindling. With my HD TV and my 5:1 surround sound set up, I find the perfect cinematic experience is now in front of my sofa. No dirty screens, no noisy food stuffs, and no one else annoy or distract.
Perhaps I'm just reaching an age where being grumpy comes easy, and not just about going to the cinema.
I can't help but feel though, the mutual respect an audience would give a film has long gone. And as much as I hate to admit it, my days of going to my local cinema to catch the latest release are all but over.
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