CALL me what you will - film
buff, movie fan or cinema aficionado - I can reveal that I have never
wavered in my support of the warm, womb-like caverns of the screen where,
viewing all the convulsions of filmic life, from salivating aliens eyeing
edible earthlings with soft centres to the clash of computer-created
armies, domestic upheavals and megalomaniac crooks intent on global
financial dictatorship, I have been comforted by seeing people worse off
than I am.
I have battled with Scott across Antarctic wastes
with only a melting choc-ice for sustenance, risked Saharan sun blindness
and desert madness, accompanying Beau Geste and buddies fending off
terrible-tempered Tuaregs and, by Goldwyn and Mayer’s Metro, have seen the
cosmos-reeling spectacle of sarong-clad Dorothy Lamour, peering at her
lipsticked reflection in a jungle watering-hole, crooning: "There’s
lovelight in the starlight with you."
My mother, also a devoted film
fancier, occasionally slung me, aged around four, on her shoulders, like a
fox fur, more for pragmatic than decorational reasons, while she walked to
"the talkies". I was, therefore, acquainted early with that now well-known
American cartoon character, once indicative of the national psyche but
then new from the drawing board, with big-buttoned, Bermuda shorts and
round-topped shoes, known as Mickey Mouse.
I also heard the native
woodnotes wild of Tarzan, a one-man, lion-dismantling, crocodile-bisecting
power house, with branches everywhere, and saw the black-ink shadow of
Nosferatu, the vampire, on his way to a maiden’s boudoir for a quick bite
and premier cru drink.
I HAVE been to Regents, Rialtos, Ritzes and Odeons,
cinemas resembling the architectural glories of Moorish Spain, others like
Doges’ palaces or Greek temples and some with the reputation of "tuppenny
scratchers" where audiences shifted uneasily in their seats and the scent
of carbolic soap hung in the air like a miasma from a swamp.
formative filmic years, I have ached on wooden benches, in the
long-vanished Operetta House, in Edinburgh’s Chambers Street, during
children’s matinees, where usherettes, with faces like steel engravings,
systematically wielded hygienic sprays, sometimes aiming towards the
children as if to discourage troublesome insects.
there that I participated in an action, often described as a myth; I, even
I, gained entrance with two jamjars, a hard currency then accepted by some
child-friendly cinema owners.
It is a far, agonised cry from
the times of bartering babes to present-day admission charges which, in
London, according to a market survey by Pricerunner.com, can be an average
of £10 per adult for a Saturday night movie - higher than in 17 other
European countries. Londoners are, reputedly, paying with hardly a murmur.
In Scotland, such a charge might, at first, have audiences deserting
cinemas like crowds fleeing from a dam burst, but eventually, I predict,
they would cough up.
Edinburgh already has a family-owned cinema which
charges £11.90 for luxury, evening seating with a drink and crisps, but
its standard charge is £5.20 per adult - around the average for most city
cinemas, which also have a range of time-of-day and concession charges.
CINEMAS have survived price rises, television, VCRs and DVDs, but a new
threat - from pirate DVDs - is causing slumps at box-offices, especially
in Scotland and particularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow. According to the
Federation Against Copyright Theft, the capital has for the first time
dropped out of the United Kingdom’s top 50 list for audience figures.
recent police and trading standards officers’ raid at Ingliston Market
uncovered vast quantities of counterfeit DVDs, CDs and computer games.
Despite that, similar fake goods are, it is alleged, still being sold
John McGowan, FACT’s senior investigating officer
in Scotland, told me that piracy was not an arrestable offence in Scotland
but was in England, and cases, because of their complexity, with thousands
of discs to be examined, could take a long time to prepare for courts. "We
are working with procurator fiscals to find more expedient ways of
prosecuting the cases."
I rejoice at that news. It is time the curtain was
raised on this real-life drama for a massive onslaught against these foul
fakers, many fronting criminal organisations, so that we film buffs can
escape, temporarily, from this wicked world into the filmic fantasies of
murder, mayhem, war, romance, comedy as well as experience the sheer joy
of simply being in a cinema.
Pass the salted, supersonic
crisps, roll the projectors and let me be genuinely entertained.