I’d love to say it didn’t.
I’d really love to.
But going to the cinema can make me a worried bean sometimes; and believe me, that upsets me more than I can likely put to words.
Never the less, I’ll give it a go.
I’ll start with why the cinema is one of my favourite places, you know, for context and stuff. When I was a little one, our family didn’t have a proverbial pot to piss in. That’s not to say we were unhappy; just hardly Scrooge McDucking it in our riches. As such, the cinema felt like a rare event. A treat reserved for the grimmest of days. It was a trek too. We had to get two long bus rides to get there which probably added to how special it felt. All that before our young bums had even touched the seats in the now demolished Sidcup cinema.
An early memory of going to the cinema with my family involved seeing Toy Story. With cheap sweets we’d snuck in ready to be devoured, the lights went down. As the Disney logo faded to a now familiar lamp jumping across the screen I remember just being stuck there. Transfixed. I didn’t fully know what the story would throw my way or what twists and turns Woody and Buzz’s journey would take; and I didn’t care. In the words of Woody, “It will be fun while it lasts”. In fairness, “fun” doesn’t cut it, I was somewhere else. Somewhere away from school, away from my worries, and away from home.
Just me and a (toy) story.
So flash forward twenty two years and the roles are reversed. It’s my Mum’s birthday and I’m taking her to the cinema. She’s always loved the romance of Hollywood and the theatre, so what better film to introduce her to than “La La Land”?
It all seemed like it was going to be okay until 5 minutes before the film started. A gaggle of kids came in with their Mum’s and promptly started taking group selfies and giggling. You tell yourself that it will stop when the film starts. You tell yourself so much that you hope you will it into existence by way of some Uri Gellar brain gymnastics.
But no, “Another Day Of Sun” kicks in and it carries on. Selfie after selfie. Camera flash after camera flash. Each one being punctuated with shrill giggles that have been completely separated from the narrative unfolding on screen.
The song ends and one of the Mum’s leans forward in between the girls who are in front. So I tell myself that they’re schooling them in the ways of cinema etiquette. Again, brain gymnastics. Based on what followed I can only assume she whispered; “You think you can disrupt a screening? Watch and learn”.
By the time Das Gosling was swooning his way down the pier, whistling his way into “City of Stars” suddenly the silence of the room was broken by an all mighty, “ELLO? WHAT YOU WATCHIN’ THEN?”
The Mum had done it. She’d ruddy topped the efforts of her spawn. She lifts her phone up and on full brightness reveals that she’s having a FaceTime conversation.
I’ll let that sink in…
A FACETIME CONVERSATION.
IN A CINEMA.
She promptly shushed the man on the other side of the screen. As if to point out his rudeness. Of course, she wasn’t rude, she was showing the younger generation how it was done. Probably. If anything, it was a public service.
Not long after this the kids decided there were better things to be done and left. It was bliss; the screening was returned to its selfie free state, without the non-contextual giggles. You could relax again. The popcorn suddenly tasted sweeter.
Now I don’t know if you’ve seen the film or not so I won’t dare spoil it for you but there is a song called, “The Fools Who Dream”. It’s a masterful song, beautifully performed by Emma Stone, and completely deserved of its Oscar nomination. What’s more, it’s important to the narrative in so many ways.
“We’ll show you, old fart” I imagined they thought as they returned to their seats. “We’ll show you who can ruin this film more”. And so it went that the selfie brigade proceeded to laugh all through the scene.
I should point out for those who might be worried whether my Mum’s birthday was spoiled, that my Mum’s hearing has seen (or rather, heard) better days, so she was largely spared from the audio component of Selfie-Giggle Gate. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that jazz.
I’m well aware that by this point I probably sound like an old grump; melodramatic and whiney about something that is much more precious to me than it is to a number of others. However, this wasn’t an isolated incident. I’ve had a heartbreakingly countless number of experiences like this in the cinema. Too many to detail here.
I know this can’t be true of all screenings and all establishments. There are many institutions out there championing the film screening as an experience. Such places as the BFI, Everyman, The Prince Charles, and The Light to name a few.
Despite this, I can’t help but feel that the “rules” of cinema-going; the etiquette of it all, has begun to wither away. As Sebastian in La La Land said of jazz, it’s, “Dying on the vine”.
So now before I go to the cinema; I worry.
And I’d love to say I didn’t.
I’d really love to.