Thursday 12 August 2010


Occurred to me the other day that I have hardly been to the cinema in years. When the show came from Birmingham I used to go regularly for the 10.30am "pensioners special".

This was designed to have the placed packed with "seniors" with cotton wool in one ear, smelling slightly of Wintergreen, whooping at Betty Grable re-runs. Actually this is a nonsense stereotype. Apologies. Try again:

Designed to have the place packed with lithe, fit, snowy-haired men and women who have taken time out from a very active sex life to catch up on the latest films, before their children and grandchildren had a chance. At the same time taking copious notes using the "free Parker pen" they received for "just calling" to enquire about the funeral expenses plans advertised by Annette Crosbie on Daytime TV.

In truth, very often I would enter the cinema buy the obligatory snacks and venture into a totally empty auditorium. On one occasion I went in and waited for the feature to start.

By "feature" what we mean these days is half an hour of ads and trailers for stuff coming up next year.

Time was when you would get two films and a newsreel as well as an usherette and the woman who marched purposefully down the centre aisle between pictures with the tray of ice cream, lit by a glow worm of a bulb. The order was always the same: "Two choc ices and a tub". My Mum used to take myself and my sister from time to time.

First occasion was to see The Sword in the Stone, the B-picture being The Scarecrow. This was so frightening for a 7 year-old that I spent most of the time hiding under the seat, so I don't remember much about either film. Nor the choc ice for that matter.

I do recall laughing so hard when Norman Pitkin (Norman Wisdom who else) came down the stairs at the beginning of The Earlybird and took all the wallpaper off with his sleeve. I practically had to be revived by the St John Ambulance representative that always seemed to be in attendance. Not seen one for years at a cinema. Maybe films aren't that funny any longer so they are not needed.

I did get my First Aid qualification when I was at school. Shortly after "qualifying" I was sauntering past the Odeon in Birmingham, when I noticed two security guards ministering to a punter lying prone at the foot of the sweeping staircase. This was my moment to shine!!!! I rushed over and said airily to the two members of staff - who were frantically trying to revive this poor bloke - "I'm a first aider"

Briefly pausing in their ministrations, one of the pair glanced at me and uttered the following memorable piece of advice which I have taken to heart and it has stayed with me my whole life:

"F*$^& off kid!"

I'll not forget your face, buster! I retired from the front line medical service at that moment. Frankly I think he did me and you a favour.

Meanwhile, back in the deserted cinema, I waited for the feature to start. After about twenty minutes the lights dimmed and nothing happened. Had they packed up and gone home? It was only 11am. After another ten minutes I fumbled my way to the exit and went to the foyer where I asked if they had to have a certain number of punters in to make it worthwhile using that much electricity to run the film.

"No, we run it even if there is no one in"

They had forgotten to press "start"?

So that answers one of life’s imponderables. The other being, "If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around, does it still make a sound?"

"If Norman Wisdom films run and there is no one around to watch them, do they still all have the cloyingly sentimental and buttock-clenchingly embarrassing bit in the middle where he develops a crush on the leading lady played by Liz Fraser?"

In the two years the show has been back in London, I have managed to catch one movie: The latest incarnation of Alice in Wonderland. It was enjoyable although I did get the impression that the fact it was in 3D meant the3 director kept adding whirling, swirling, whooshing things to make the best use of the technique. This became slightly tedious after a while as I was waiting for it to happen and trying to spot something that might suddenly fly at me.

The Dark Lady, her eleven year old son, Jamie, and I decided to head for a cinema to catch Toy Story 3.

It has been praised to the skies and everything I have read about it warned the softie in me that it was going to cause the odd tear to course down my cheek.

I had booked online and so we arrived with a few minutes to spare and then went to sort out the carb-loading for the feature. The deal was I booked the tickets and the DL bought the snacks.

I got the best deal I think. We were in Walsall in the West Midlands not in central London. How do three hot dogs, three drinks and bag of sweets come to nearly £25?

Being greedy and time running short we order three XL Hot dogs. As I have blogged in the past, who do they think they are kidding when the advertise "Large and Extra Large" when they could also advertise the same products as "regular" or "large". To my certain knowledge these were the only two sizes available.

There was only one XL turning slowly on the dog warmer so I pulled rank (OK the DL gave in, after I whined sufficiently) so I got the big dog (Yes, I am the big dog daddy!) and Jamie and K had the "large".

I have seen the previous two in the Toy Story franchise and have loved them both. This was equally wonderful made even more poignant by the fact it is the last one.

There was a lot of whirling and whooshing of stuff at the start. However, I became so absorbed that I stopped noticing after a few minutes.

If you have not seen it I will not spoil it for you.

Yes, I wept at the end. Yes, I welled up when Randy Newman sang the theme song. Yes, I had kept several napkins from the hot dog for such an eventuality.

When the lights came up, we looked around lots of people seemed to have got something in their eye. Must be very dusty in there. I had red eyes with curious mustard and ketchup eyeshadow.

I tweeted that I had found it very affecting and also mentioned seeing it on the show. I was delighted to find that I was not alone. One person claimed they were saved from exposure by the man behind them sobbing loudly.

Only one dissenting voice came from a listener who described themselves as "The Hairy Scotsman" who told Dr Strangelove, the producer, and myself to; "man up".

Oh, and an eleven year old boy of my acquaintance who claimed that he hadn't cried.

"Well maybe one small tear" he said trying to make me feel better.


Lee Slator said...

It always tickles me when we visit the cinema, seeing people come in with the big tubs of popcorn, the nachos, bag of sweets and the Supersize drink.

These will be the same people you see running for the loo as soon as the main feature ends because they've drunk too much pop and have had to hold it in for the majority of it!

Can't fault your tactics though in buying the tickets though. Carb loading is always a very expensive deal and in my case is swiftly followed by much swearing (that is of course if I've forgotten to hide a big bag of sweets in Mrs. S's handbag).

Slyppery Syd said...

CHILD - ah ha ... so that is why you are with the DL and her young son ..... so you now have an excuse to see all the kiddy films again! Crafty hey!

Slyppery Syd said...

PS .... Errrr, does anyone have a kid I could borrow so I too have an excuse to see kiddies films?

Annie said...

Took time out from my active sex life with snowy haired partner to go see Toy Story 3 (note to Slyppery Sid - without children or grand children between us we just had to be grown up enough to brave the movie anyway!).

It probably helped that I spent 20 plus years working in daycare so I could identify well with the main characters and believe me, the Caterpillar Room is not for the faint hearted!

It's much like the Best Time of the Day Shoe .... (love it!)

P.S. Buying the tickets rather than the food was a good move - thanks Alex!

mwhite229 said...

I laughed at your description of the cinema food - I can't for the life of me understand why people have to eat so much in a cinema - its a max. of 2/3 hours, why do they need enough food to last a day - particularly nasty if you sit behind someone with a huge tub of smelly popecorn (yuck) - and to be honest that hot dog didn't look too appetising to me!! If you must eat, what's wrong with just a bag of choccies. But I did like the hairy scotsman, is that you in disguise Alex, there is a distinct similarity (the knees perhaps)

TruckerMark said...

Seeing the "Scotsman" pic made me think of Billy Connelly and the film Mrs Brown - teehee!

Last film I saw was the third installment of the Bourne Trilogy!