9 March 2012

‘sweaty nutter in a winter coat'

Try future cinema
to avoid the pitfalls
Want a very expensive way to be treated with contempt? Irritated at the rip off prices of tickets and poor quality food and drink at the cinema? Tired of an ambience that is like that of a cross-channel ferry with films projected at an intolerably loud volume? Then cheer yourself up by stuffing your face and getting pissed on smuggled in booze and food instead. It’s great.

So, I was sitting in the cinema the other day eating a massive, leaky, donor kebab - popcorn just doesn’t cut it when you’re hungry - that I had just nonchalantly and blatantly walked in with and was swigging dark rum out of my hip flask, that I had fortunately just filled up only an hour before to wash the whole sorry mess down when, would you Adam and Eve it, the cinema security guy came up to me and said; “Are you eating food you didn’t buy in this cinema?” I said, all indignant like, spluttering finely chopped lettuce and rum breath into his face; “No!” and he walked away with a knitted brow.

I think he became suspicious when I winked at him whilst carrying two big Sainsbury's bags full of food, past the "no own food beyond this point" sign. Most cinemas won't search bags though, they don’t have proper security see, and I would never concede to it even if I wasn't taking food in, so everything from Chinese boxes to a sloppy Subway is fair game. Cinema food is so bad for you don’t you think?

Security staff as my local cinema will frequently search bags, but never pockets, so a good coat with lots of inner pockets is a good accessory to have. This can be difficult in summer though; although the ‘sweaty nutter in a winter coat going to the cinema’ look also guarantees plenty of space around you which can be a good thing.

Even if you have no food after paying that rip off ticket price the grimy surroundings with popcorn and general detritus under your feet can provide rich pickings. I usually find there's enough left over popcorn around my feet and chair from the previous performance to keep me going and that sticky stuff on the floor must have been a Haribo at one point.

Cinema foods mark-ups are just ridiculous. Popcorn and a drink end up costing more than the cinema ticket, and the coffee is uniformly dreadful. Never mind snacks, the most satisfying film experiences can be had by smuggling in booze. Most films improve immeasurably when half-cut. I find red wine and strong lager is particularly suited to the task.

With A box of popcorn giving around 85% profit to the cinema you can’t help but understand why they crank the old prices up.  "Without the hefty concession profits," declared an article in Time a few years ago, "there would be no movie theatre business". What I’d like to do is take in a popcorn maker and a battery; plug it in and make my own fresh popcorn just before the movie starts. And sell it. Nothing better than a popcorn sesh before an inhaling lighter fluid sesh.

Once full of your own food and very pissed another great scam is, and you need a child for this one, to go to the family shows on weekends which costs a quid each and then spend a day in the cinema watching at least 5 films for the pound - the staff don't tend to 'police' the auditoriums so it's in and out all day long! Back of the net!

All this pales into insignificance compared to the very wonderful and much missed Whitstable Cinema. In the days of yore one could take whatever one wanted in; even buy a pint at the bar and take that in too. Sweet and salty snacks were reasonably priced and it was indeed a pleasure to visit this now lost gem of a cinema. One remembers fondly Marc Damico pulling one a pint before running up the stairs to get the film started. I much preferred going to my local indie cinema where I could have a nice glass of Merlot and a slice of cake. Now that’s what I call civilised.

The bottom line is that you really don't have to eat or drink while watching a film, you know. It's only runs for a couple of hours.