How the Multiplex is killing Cinema

I love the cinema. Don’t we all?

I remember the excitement of going there as a child, sitting in the darkness, watching the swirling cigarette smoke create shafts of dancing light in the projector beam, the red dots of fire as a match was lit, the boiled sweets being thrown from the balcony, the torn and broken seats, the snogging couple, the usherette, the interval!

Oh yeah, and the film.

Going to the cinema was always an event. Something to look forward to. Something special. In some ways the film itself was irrelevant, it was more about the anticipation, the wonder at seeing something new. But of course I saw some amazing films there. Star Wars came to town when I was seven and expanded my tiny world like a celluloid fueled big bang.

I remember queuing to see Grease, buying a program for Moonraker, (still my favourite Bond film because of the heady nostalgia it provokes), and taking my friends to see Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack on my birthday.

Then the 1980’s came along and the last cinema in my home town closed its doors forever. I grew up with two cinemas to choose from, the Odeon or the Fairworld. I am reliably told that thirty years earlier the town sustained over a dozen cinemas. Hard to imagine.

When the cinema closed I missed out on a whole slew of 80’s classics, only discovering them years later on VHS. Raiders of the Lost Arc, Back to the Future, ET, all missed.

So when, in the late 1990’s a multiplex opened its shinny plastic doors right on my doorstep it was a day of giddy rejoicing.

But its not what we were promised, is it? We have less choice than ever, and I’m tired of recounting my too-numerous anecdotes about incorrect aspect ratios, missing sound, or spools in the wrong order. I’ve bored myself with how many times I’ve had to walk back to the popcorn drenched foyer and tell someone to fix their film!

So this summer I gave up and started driving miles away to go to a slightly less bad cinema chain. They at least project their film in the correct ratio, and the pictures have sound. My pre-film anxiety is beginning to wane.

But I worry for the future. If the cinema experience stops being that  – an experience – and becomes an endurance instead then cinema will die. We’ll be stuck at home with our huge plasma screens and surround sound speakers wishing someone would light up a cigarette and throw boiled sweets on our heads.


Writer & Artist based in the North East of England.

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