I remember my first time. May, 1995. A Wednesday. A student house in Coventry, and I uttered the fateful words “anyone fancy the cinema tonight? There’s a film called Hackers that looks great”. And not one of them wanted to come, the selfish bunch. Too interested in playing Doom on their PC, watching The Bill or listening to this ‘Britpop’ stuff. They certainly weren’t busy cleaning the kitchen.
So I made my mind up, walked out of the house and settled down at the Odeon by myself. I loved every minute of the Jonny Lee Miller/Angelina Jolie electro nonsense on my lonesome. And I’ve been enjoying the joys of solo cinema for many years since.
Going to the cinema is a lot of things to a lot of people. Early on in your life it’s a great family day out. In your teenage years there’s the excitement of getting into a film you aren’t quite old enough for, and later still it becomes a sneaky way into the world of romance.
And with a group of you, a trip to the flicks can be an immensely bonding experience. I enjoyed The Matrix Reloaded simply because my slightly drunk mate – Rusty – a massive fan of the original, expressed his displeasure at the slow paced nature of the sequel by yelling “GET ON WITH IT” at the top of his voice after the first 20 minutes. It’s still the highpoint of the film.
But the simple joy of popping along to the movies on your own is something that deserves to be celebrated too. For several reasons…
Nowadays we’re all happy to watch films on the go, on the bus, even on the toilet (you know who you are) and we don’t share that experience, thankfully in some cases. No-one is ever pilloried for watching a DVD or Blu-ray on their own are they? So why should it be the case in a large building specifically designed for the viewing of films? Yes, my TV is relatively large, but not so big that I have to sit at least 100ft from it, and it can’t show me films that have only just been released.
Day and date releases are changing that to some extent, but films deserve to be seen on a big screen. I bailed out of a free bar at work once for one simple reason – a one-off cinema screening of The Shawshank Redemption was on at the same time. I’ve never regretted that for one minute, having only seen it before (and since) on DVD or TV. Plus, I didn’t end up getting hammered and trying to, er, snog my boss (again, you know who you are).
You get to read the free cinema magazine
Er, this might just be. But there’s something joyous about the free cinema magazines you get, and when you are on your own waiting for the film to begin you can truly appreciate these overlooked publications.
Over the years, long before sites like this or magazines like Empire and Total Film, they were a pretty invaluable source of info on upcoming films. My first glimpse of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade was in the pages of the magnificent Flicks publication (woah! A 5cm picture of Indy fighting on a tank!), free at the Torquay Odeon.
Many of the articles are just the PR bumpf written up nicely, so the free film mags also have the unenviable task of being unbelievably positive about everything they are going to show you – no matter how naff they know the film will ultimately be. A recent trip to Vue had me enjoying the Grown Ups 2 feature which just attempted to recall all the best Adam Sandler performances, to remind you that at some point he was quite good. I’m pretty sure the article was funnier than the actual film. And a lot shorter. And didn’t make me want to poke my own eyes out.
It’s about the film
To be honest, you’re never really alone with a film. There’s a lovely relationship that exists between you and the medium itself. Films are made to be watched. Some demand a reaction, some wash over you, Bad Boys 2 made me want to walk out and have a shower to cleanse myself. And with the latter, I was able to do just that, because it was just me and no-one else to consult.
If you’re on your own you don’t have to worry about how the other person you are with is reacting. If they are feeling uncomfortable – as my wife did throughout Sin City – you can be distracted by worrying about their reaction. At the end of the film she even said to me “I think you’d have enjoyed that more on your own”, not being a fan of cartoonish characters having their dangly bits pulled off. There will always be films that will work for some people, but not for others. Some you can debate afterwards, but others you wouldn’t ask other people to sit through – so don’t make them.
There’s no reason why you can’t actually turn the singular film experience into something shared by going with someone, but seeing separate films. My other half and I had a great day out – her with Brave while I was busy with Dredd. That meant we got the thrill of the cinema, the choice of what we wanted to see, and the chance to buy incredibly overpriced snacks (she likes those big strawberry jelly sweets, I like fizzy cola bottles) and drinks the size of swimming pools.
For some people I know, this is the only way they can see some 3D films – when their partner or friend can’t abide them or physically cannot view them due to problems with vision. So, until the 3D-monocle is invented, sometimes it’s a very practical solution.
It’s all down to you
Finally, there’s no compromise when you go to the cinema by yourself. You end up watching the film you want, in the seat that you want to see it. There’s no disturbance (if all goes to plan), and instead it’s arguably the purest way of watching a movie. It’s you, the screen, and nothing else to worry about (again, if all goes to plan) for a couple of hours.
There are downsides, of course. If you end up with a gang of people near you, there’s the occasional tendency that they’ll pick on the person by themselves. You need more brass than usual to tell the jabberer to keep quiet. That sort of thing. But for more serious films in particular, there’s a strong argument that a solitary cinema trip is the best way to see it.
Bottom line: if you go to the cinema by yourself, rest assured: you are very much not alone…
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