Cinema Memories

One of the things I miss about not going to the cinema so much these days is the memories that goes with seeing a great movie. Its not the same when its just putting a disc in a player and ejecting it when the film is over. The actual viewing experience can be the same, or even superior, considering how many morons frequent cinemas these days and how good HD transfers look on a quality screens at home. But I do miss the stuff that surrounds a cinema experience, the memories that stick around. Its not quite the same when it involves the postie delivering a film and you sitting down to watch it on an evening like any other.

For instance, I remember watching COCOON on an autumnal Sunday in town- I enjoyed the film and in particular the James Horner score (I was a big Horner fan back then), but as we walked across town afterwards to catch the bus home, we were fascinated by the silver crescent moon in the sky above us, wintry clouds scudding across it. The moon was such an iconic image in the film and it’s fine poster-art, it seemed like a real-life echo of the movie. As if the film experience was bleeding into reality. It was weird, and something that I always recall when seeing a crescent moon.

One of my strangest moments was with THE ABYSS. I saw it on a Saturday afternoon in high summer, on a glorious sunny day. I’d actually been in town that morning and bought the soundtrack in advance (I used to do daft things like that back then). I remember it being a fine hot day, picked up my friends and drove over to the local multiplex. Now, I really loved THE ABYSS, even its theatrical cut. It was such an authentic experience, the dark dank wetness of the thing, you know? It was like being there, down in the deep cold depths. How bewildering it seemed, then, walking back out to the car-park afterwards, out into the  bright, warm sunshine. It was like some kind of shock, a bewildering return to reality. I remember how disconcerting it seemed at the time. When I went to watch film again the next week, I went on an evening, and it seemed less alarming walking out into a cool dark night, it just felt right.

And of course there was BLADE RUNNER, with the feeling that I had somehow truly been to 2019 (how distant that date seemed back in 1982!). It remains my most intense cinema experience. I was walking around for days, weeks, months looking at the world with new eyes, seeing the slivers of Ridley’s future world in my reality, something that has carried on to this day. We are living in so much of that 2019 now. But back in that September early evening the world of 1982 was the one that didn’t feel real, I felt I’d left the real world behind in that ABC cinema. Maybe all these intervening years have been a slow return to that reality. We’ll never really quite get there, alas (flying cars!).

And then there’s the emotional ‘buzz’ that follows a great movie- I remember walking out of SUPERMAN 2 with John William’s fanfare ringing in my ears feeling like I could fly. Then coming back down to reality with such a bump. It was, after all, only a movie, the world didn’t have a Superman, and I couldn’t really fly.

Thats the magic of trips to the cinema that generations of filmgoers have experienced, an escape from their own humdrum reality, whether it be GONE WITH THE WIND or BEN HUR or STAR WARS or AVATAR. We’ve all walked out with the films and their ‘realities’  lingering in our heads. You might get something like that watching a film on disc at home, but not so intense a feeling as from the cinema experience. Mind, there’s plenty wrong with the cinema experience too- I much prefer watching films at home these days, but I accept the related memories just aren’t the same now.

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4 thoughts on “Cinema Memories

  1. I still love going to the movies and I still, usually, have a good experience to go along with it. I do love watching movies at home as well, but there is just something you cannot get at home that you can at the theater.

  2. I think the whole ‘everydayness’ of watching at home stands in the way of getting round to many great films (for me, at any rate). Going to the cinema lends an automatic sense of occasion — not just the Going Out of it, the scale of the auditorium, the screen, etc — but also that what you’re seeing is on at that specific time in that specific location; be there or miss out. (Obviously this is less the case with shown-every-hour new releases, but if we’re talking about chances to see acclaimed classics…) But when something’s just on your shelf, can be watched any time… and even if you make a plan to watch it and something goes awry, you can just bump it half an hour / a day / a month… there’s no Occasion. Just bunging, say, Citizen Kane on a random weekday night doesn’t feel quite right. (This may just be me with some bizarre self-generated need for an occasion of import equal to the film itself. It’s not something I really feel about repeat viewings either, just the first one. I’ve tried to combat it with my WDYMYHS thing, but even then I watched one as #100 and another as My Final Film Of The Year.)

    Also, I do think memories of how you saw a film at home are never the same as cinema ones. I can’t think of a single memory associated to watching something at home, whereas even the most mediocre cinema experience can result in a connected memory. For instance, back in 2005/6 we were going to the cinema all the time, almost trying to catch everything that was on, which resulted in one evening seeing something (I forget what; possibly Good Night and Good Luck) at the Picturehouse, then practically running to the other side of town (and we are not running people) to the Odeon, so as we’d be just in time to catch… the Jim Carrey remake of Fun with Dick and Jane! What a piece of nothing — I can barely remember the film at all — but chasing across town to see it, that’s firmly stuck.

  3. Ghost: I know exactly what you mean. Though I think it’s just an age and nostalgia thing. I have so many formative memories of movie-going from my childhood and early teens: but even though I can remember most of my later cinema experiences just as clearly, there’s no feeling of magic from them. It’s just the magic of being young.

    Bad Bloke Bob: I have a few experiences of watching a film at home that are just as vivid as cinema ones – though they’re all ones that I wouldn’t have been able to see at the movies…The Evil Dead on VHS [from Palace, in a big clamshell case!] in 1983, on a cold dark night in the country, where afterwards I had to walk along a pitch black country lane alongside a wood, to get from my Aunt’s cottage to my Grandparents’… Eraserhead on Channel 4, around the time Dune came out in the UK, late, late on a Friday night… Taxi Driver, on VHS, on a baking summer’s afternoon in 1987, aged 16 and very very hungover from a party the night before. Perfect viewing conditions can sometimes occur outside the movie theatre.

    1. Regards watching films at home, I think the VHS days had some special sense of wonder. I still recall our first ever rental when our VHS player was brand-new; it was Poltergeist, and I well remember the sense of wonder of a whole, real movie in that plastic case and the amazing feeling watching a movie at the touch of a button. Particularly as it was still a ‘new’ film when tv screenings were 3 years or more after theatrical runs. I probably love Poltergeist more than it deserves but much of that is because of that rental.

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