Going to the movies is a social occasion

Peter Waters

There was a time when people of my generation { the “baby boomers”} would go to the movies every week. We didn’t  consider what  it was; we just wanted to see it. We would go with a group of friends. Often there was a queue. That didn’t matter. It was just part of the fun. We saw other friends and acquaintances waiting, worrying if they would “get in” because the cinema was filling – up.

I remember the excited anticipation, the buzz of the audience, throwing popcorn at each other. Putting ice down girlfriends’ backs and putting a hand over her mouth to muffle the inevitable scream!

Yes, this may be nostalgic, but something else, I believe, was happening. Every night the cinema was full of a community at the movies, laughing until our stomachs ached, or shedding tears at a heart-wrenching drama.

However, as television improved in quality programming and, later with the advent of cable, we had a much wider choice from which to select our favourite shows.

Nowadays of, course, we have a huge variety of technical methods to see a movie on television (legally of course0 and many reasons why we choose not  to see a film at the cinema.

Our lives have become busier than in any age before. In researching for this column I asked several of my friends for some insight as to why they go more often don’t go to the cinema. Their response was quite enlightening. A teacher told me “with all my extra curricular activities  with students and community groups in which I am involved, I have just one day to myself. I do try to make it to the opera and plays at the Roxy. Also plays by The Theatre Company because they are important to my experience of enjoying performance art.”

Another echoed many parents in town when she said “we have young children and it is I quite often difficult to make ends meet by the end of the month, and family has to come first.

Having noted that, however, I think we need to look at a night at the Roxy as more than simply “going to the movies.” As it was when I was young, an evening at the cinema is about more than being entertained. It is a social experience, a social occasion that can help build the bonds that exist between friends and family members.

Those bonds are important even vital to the health of a community.

I’m not saying we all should rush from our homes to The Roxy  to see the next film, although I am sure Carl Rankin would be thrilled if that happened. But judging by the way people emerged energized and engaged from The King’s Speech in the past week it was obvious to me that the cinema experience retains a remarkable power to motivate and influence people.

And that is something only the Big Screen can do.

Peter Waters is a local actor and director