We used to go to the pictures: not a cinema or a complex, to see a film. Not a movie or a feature: it was called a film. It was a very simple process without the use of pre-booking with a credit card: one simply turned up at the cinema, in our case the Odeon on Corby’s Rockingham Road, pay to get in (upstairs or downstairs as opposed to stalls and balcony), bought some popcorn and a drink, then made our way to ones allotted seat to watch the one and only screen in town. The cost for this out-of-world experience was variable based on value for money and quality of view, though I seem to remember that adults paid something like nine pence or a shilling and children three pence or sixpence. The atmosphere inside the cinema was extremely different from that of today’s home-from-home experience. The air was filled with smoke, ashtrays were overflowing, and there was no such thing as air conditioning. Sometimes the red ‘velvety’ seats felt sticky, even damp, where a previous occupant had perhaps spilled a drink or a child’s toffee covered hand had been wiped across the surface material. The visual quality ranged from outrageously bad to grainy and unsynchronised. The presented films made VHS tape look like something from science fiction. Though to be fair, each had its merits and each was of its time. The true state of the cinema was never fully revealed, even at the end of a film, as the lighting was just low enough to enable one to either enter or leave the building, yet subtle enough not to show the full horror of the room in which one sat for the past two hours or so. The floor too had stickiness about it as one kicked empty cartons or ice cream tubs under the seat in front. As one film would end there would be a long queue outside waiting to get in immediately to see the next presentation: the building was a film production line from the family shows which started at around eleven in the morning until the very last dot-on-the-screen heralded the end of yet another X-rated film late at night. Film censorship was very easy to understand though, very much like today, completely ignored by most of the public and the cinema staff. A ‘U’ certificate meant universal and suitable for children. The ‘A’ certificate meant ‘adult’ though some councils ruled that children may watch a film if accompanied by an adult. Then there was the bad-boy of them all: the ‘X’ certificate. Two films in particular remind by of that old Odeon experience. My sister Elizabeth took me to see the James Bond film You Only Live Twice and my brother Tom took me to see Jungle book. Both have remained firm favourites of mine.
Last weekend I took my seven year old grandson Joshua to see Tintin in 3D at the Odeon in Kettering. As we were driving home I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d just seen one of his favourite films of all time.