Just over a year and a half ago I had a baby, and my son is a beautiful bundle of joy who is growing rapidly by the day. One of the many things I look forward to as he grows up is introducing him to new and exciting experiences, and the one I actually cannot wait for is the world of film as it was such an important thing to me growing up. But we live in a different age now, and although we have a huge cinematic adventure ahead of us, there are some things I’m quite sad about that he is going to miss out on in this digital age, starting with…
This actually is the most heart-breaking for me because it is the one I hold the greatest memories of. Growing up I had a local three screen Coronet Cinema down the road from my house, and it really had seen better days. The floors were sticky, you played chair bingo whenever you went in to watch a film, the sound could be tinny at best, and when you went in you walked past a concession stand that nobody had bought anything from since the early 80s. However, none of this mattered because once the lights went down and I heard the sound of the projector starting up, that feeling came over me that I have never been able to shake – the sheer excitement and anticipation of watching a movie.
It was the cinema I saw my first film in, could visit every Monday and Wednesday and watch any movie for £2.50 (and even at ‘prime’ prices you didn’t pay more than a fiver), and where if I asked the ticket booth man nicely he would save one sheet for me to put up on my bedroom wall. It was my gateway to cinema and it had the sort of soul and character you don’t find in modern cinemas now. The picture may be clearer and the sound sharper but modern cinemas do just feel like a ‘get ‘em in, get ‘em out’ business now; they will never be able to capture the essence of what makes cinema going great which is the sheer enjoyment of film.
The video shop
One day, when my son is old enough to understand, we’ll have a talk about how ancient I am. How I remember using things like tapes and CDs, how phones were attached to the wall with cords, how the internet didn’t exist and if you wanted to rent a movie, rather than look it up on your digital store, click a button and start watching it, you had to leave your house and enter a magical world of which he will never see the like – the video shop.
Growing up my family were members of Armchair Theatre, a glorious place that younger me could spend hours and hours looking around, checking out all the video boxes, taking in all the artwork, deciding on just the information given in the blurb which we would be going home with that weekend and nearly always choosing Santa Claus: The Movie (my mum must have had the patience of a saint).
If you could bottle the feeling of walking around the video store on a Friday or Saturday it would be called pure happiness. There were endless possibilities and you always ran the risk of making a terrible error in judgement and ending up with a dud over the weekend, but that was all part of the joy of film watching. Digital downloads are a much easier sell, but how can you compare that to the excitement of popping the video into your VHS and holding your breath to make sure the tape actually worked and you weren’t going to see fuzzy white lines for the next few hours? About 20 minutes into your rental the film might actually start (after adverts, trailers and those informational messages about how the age rating system worked), but in those simpler days we were happy to just be able to watch recent-ish movies in the comfort of our own homes.
Summer blockbuster season
Now call me old fashioned but when did summer move to March? Wait, it hasn’t? Well try telling that to Hollywood, who have been slowly extending the summer movie season earlier and earlier each year. By doing so they are taking away the experience of the pure excitement that real summer blockbuster season had on me and many others growing up. Not only were you guaranteed six glorious weeks off school, but you could bet your pocket money studios would release their big budget, big bang for your buck movies over that period.
Summer blockbusters were something to really look forward to – huge spectacle movies usually filled with the biggest stars of the time and usually directed by big household names. Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Armageddon, Batman Returns/Batman Forever, they are just some of the examples of proper vintage summer blockbusters. Although having variety and choice in cinema is a great thing, it does just feel really sad that I won’t be able to share the excitement and anticipation of the build up to the summer blockbuster season because it doesn’t really exist anymore.
Music video tie-ins
Now these still do exist, but much like the M in MTV standing for music, are becoming a far rarer thing. One of the starting points to a movie’s release was a tie-in music video that featured the title or end song from the movie, the artist, occasionally a cameo from the stars, and clips from the movie to tease the audience. A good soundtrack could be the making of a film’s box office if addressed to the right audience (the majority of the Batman Forever Soundtrack basically took over the airwaves in 1995 for example), but all that aside they were just fun and really helped add to the build-up of big cinema releases, I mean who wouldn’t want to watch Bad Boys after seeing Diana King’s Shy Guy play on rotation constantly? No, just me then?
As a parent now I guess I should be pleased that merchandise tie-ins are not quite what they were when I was growing up, but dang it if I don’t miss the lines of rubbish they used to wheel out each year to tie-in with any movie they thought that could sell toys with. There is that brilliant scene in Jurassic Park where they pan over the gift shop, all of which was filled with items you would be able to buy yourself after you had seen the movie; flash forward to Jurassic World and there is barely anything. Then again, when I think back to the fact there was an entire range of kids’ toys made in the image of Freddy Kruger, maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.
Television movie shows
One I am actually really annoyed about for myself as much as him. Growing up I had the late, great Barry Norman as my go-to guy for reviews and everything else film related; he ruled the television review universe (and rightly so) and you knew he wouldn’t do you wrong. For something a bit more light-hearted you could always tune into Channel 4’s Moviewatch, but there was a place you could go to get reviews, find out the news and see trailers or clips for upcoming films.
You could say the age of the internet and access to pretty much all the above at a click rendered these sort of shows redundant, but to me I will also remember them as the place I first heard about upcoming films, got excited when I heard a good review, and felt a huge pang of jealousy that I never got to hold one of those giant numbers up to rate the film of the week. I can access a wealth of fantastic reviews and listen to wonderful radio shows online that do all of the above, but having a weekly lynchpin show which I could look forward to and refer to is sorely missed.
This nonsense of teaser trailers, teasers of teaser trailers and multiple trailers for the same thing needs to stop. This is just me being grumpy.
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing; in the cold light of day some things were never as great as you remember them, but all the above are part of how I came to love cinema and all that comes with it, and I hope that even if It won’t be exactly the same for my son in 30-odd years’ time, he will be able to say the same.