Bring on the usherettes

The big Christmas cinema release was Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I, along with countless others, escaped the tedium of over-eating in front of the telly with bickering or snoozing relatives by popping out to see it.

My cinema of choice is the Commodore, Ryde. This friendly picture-house has stood its ground while other old Isle of Wight cinemas have been decommissioned and demolished, or repurposed as bars, costume workshops or pet doctors (or vets as we used to call them in the olden days). They certainly weren’t all seen off by the tin behemoth that is Newport’s Cineworld; some fell by the wayside back in the 1980s, presumably victims of the march of progress known as video rental (ask yer nan).

I’m old enough to remember when folks could enjoy a cigarette as they watched a cartoon, followed by the main feature. Pesky public health campaigners put a partial stop to that as auditoria were divided into smoking and non-smoking sections. The genius that came up with this segregation hadn’t considered that smoke is free to drift wherever it pleases, so you still came out stinking of fags and with an improved chance of cancer.

Now ciggie addicts have been joined by other fidgeters. When Cineworld first opened, at the start of each programme a computer-generated woman – brimful of attitude – would bang virtual chatterers heads together and high-kick mobiles from the grasp of their owners before crushing them with her bare hands.

Nowadays, anti-phone films are far more subtle; the actual message lost in a convoluted story or multiplicity-style narrative starring Kevin Bacon. I’d like it better if a massive pointing finger with a sign, preferable written in unequivocal capitals, popped up on screen which said ‘OI! TURN YOUR PHONE OFF. YES, YOU. I’M NOT JOKING.’

And what’s with the consumption of sweets and sickly pop? You’re not a blooming hummingbird! Your heart won’t stop beating if it’s not perpetually fuelled by sugar. Stop the interminable rustling and talking; surely even you are capable of simultaneously keeping your eyes open and your mouth closed? In fact, you might find it easier to concentrate on the film if you weren’t hopped up on Haribo Tangfastics and having to pop to the loo every five minutes to empty your pea-sized bladder distended with fizzy syruppy drink.

I had intended to write an analysis of the costumes in Star Wars: The Last Jedi but somehow I’ve digressed onto my well-worn rant about fellow cinema-goers. Apparently it was the same with the introduction of the Talkies; people had to be taught not to yammer through the film as they needed to hear the dialogue. The more things change the more they stay the same.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 12 January 2018.

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