A View From the Stalls, early September 2015
Michael Rowan, a member of Chiltern Film Society's committee, provides personal musings about his cinema experiences.
Stress it would appear is a modern phenomenon which I put down to choice. Today there is just too much choice.
Back in the day, the film was shown at the cinema and disappeared possibly to be shown again on television some 5 or 6 years later. If you wanted to see a film you made the effort. Today I mention a film to my nephew and within minutes he has downloaded it and is watching it on his computer. If the film has stopped showing in the cinema he can buy the DVD within a few months.
Film choice was restricted to the main film and the accompanying B movie showing that week. Today I gaze at an offering of between 6 and 10 films not including the films that are slotted into the programme at different times of day and night.
Food is the other area where limited choice took away the stress that accompanies a modern trip to the cinema. Today deciding on sweet or salty popcorn is only the beginning of the menu choices that await the cinema goer.
Oh for the times when the decision was between vanilla and vanilla ice cream, served in a tub with a comforting wooden spoon. This lack of choice resulted in fast moving queues. Usherettes would stand at the head of each aisle dispensing food that was invented to be eaten silently and anyway was consumed before the film started. Don’t get me wrong I too was beguiled by progress and duly welcomed the arrival of the Choc Ice but in hindsight this was the Trojan Horse of cinema going. For those with a sweet tooth Poppets offered stress free confection, a variety of chocolate covered centres and no way of knowing what you were getting until you bit down. Sat in the dark eating poppets was like playing Russian Roulette with your taste buds.
Seating too was a more simple affair. No seats with armchair proportions and a place to insert a bucket of ice and some coke. In my youth there was the stalls (cheap seats) and the circle (posher seats) and of course the back row which allowed teenagers to kiss in the privacy of the darkness and the company of 100 plus other cinema goers.
Food was also on offer in the Foyer though again the limited range reduced both cost and angst.
How I envied the older teenagers buying hot dogs with the mouth watering smell of onions. My first experience of such culinary delight was an anti climax with a flabby frankfurter and tasteless watery onions. So much for cinema verite
The final choice of course was smoking or none smoking. My mother a lifelong none smoker always chose to sit on the left hand side of the cinema, all the better to see the plumes of smoke crossing the space as we watched those exotic Benson and Hedges adverts.
Stress may not have been invented, but irony certainly had.