As a child, there was always something magical about a big screen in a darkened theatre. As an adult, that magic remains.
It has only been in the last year or so that we’ve started doing family trips to the cinema. But they have rapidly become a popular fixture during school holidays and bank holiday weekends.
Yesterday we all headed into Newbury to watch Home, the latest Dreamworks animation starring The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons and Rihanna, the pop singer who is to modest attire and wholesome lyrics what Nigel Farage is to befriending Albanian immigrants on Facebook. It’s a simple, everyday tale about an alien race who invade Earth and forcibly relocate humans into mass internment camps. As you do. But they’re cuddly, colourful and make for great kid-friendly merchandise, so that’s okay.
Anyhow, I digress.
The kids had been excited about this ever since they saw the trailer when we went to watch Paddington over Christmas. Being the 21st century children that they are, they’ve rewatched the trailers at least 20 or 30 times on YouTube since.
The routine is now well established. Load up the kids with popcorn and Fruit Shoots. Regret not taking out a second mortgage to pay for said snacks. Sit down just in time for the start of the trailers – all 704 of them. Note down which ones we liked so we can watch them again on YouTube later. (Thumbs up this time round for the upcoming Peanuts movie, Inside Out and, of course, Minions.) Wait for film to start.
Film begins. At first all goes well. Lots of laughter and general appreciation. 20 minutes from the end Toby will announce loudly that he’s bored and wants to go home. At the Moment of Maximum Jeopardy – I have a precise algorithm for calculating when this is – Isaac, our sensitive one, will break down in floods of tears, clutch my arm in a vice-like grip and refuse to watch any more until I have officially sounded the all-clear. This will set Toby off too. Kara, meanwhile, is cackling with laughter because she’s still young enough not to get scared by such things.
Precisely seven minutes from the end we reach the Moment of Maximum Bladder Capacity, where one of the children will demand that they need the toilet right now and cannot possibly wait until the end.* As a result, I will end up buying the film as soon as it is released on DVD so I can watch the five minutes I inevitably miss.
Film ends. A beaming Kara declares the film “perfect”. Toby, who despite his protestations has actually been rapt throughout, gives a non-committal shrug by way of verdict. Isaac bombards me with 100 questions about details of the film, of which I am able to answer approximately seven without the aid of Wikipedia and IMDb. (Thank God for the internet!)
Their verdict on Home? Fairly positive. Not as great as Paddington but still one I suspect they’re likely to come back to in the future, and which will no doubt be added to our DVD collection in the future.
It’s a far cry from the cinemagoing experiences of my childhood. I was eight the first time I was taken to the cinema (to see Grease), at a time when the word ‘multiplex’ hadn’t yet been invented, we used to queue half-way around the block to get in and then buy ice creams during mid-film, theatre-style intermissions.
I loved going to the cinema. Through my teenage years I would go once or twice a month, taking in everything from the blockbuster Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Bond series to the smaller, mid-budget movies which seem to have become all but extinct in the wake of the mega-bucks, mega-merchandising franchises and family friendly films that dominate our screens today.
Even so, a trip to the cinema remains a source of great anticipation and excitement, for a parent as much as a child. Even with large screen TVs, Blu-ray and Netflix, there’s still magic in the air when the lights go down and that big screen fires up. And that’s as it should be.
* In fairness, for the first time ever this did not happen this time.
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