PUBLISHED ON Sun 14th Apr 2024 IN The Adventures of Adam Valli

The Cinema

I love cinema. And I have done since I was a young boy. I love being transported into another world and meeting the characters who inhabit it. I love getting to know those characters and watching them grow as they meet the challenges that face them in the story.

Over the years the worlds and characters in question have changed. When I was a kid it was Aladdin, Home Alone and the often forgotten Disney classic, Basil The Great Mouse Detective. As I got older, James Bond, Jerry Bruckheimer movies and Michael Bay's mid-90s output. Nowadays I really enjoy indie films. But my overarching love of cinema is as strong today as it ever has been.

I love cinema. I just don't like cinemas.

I don't like cinemas because they often contain other people. And when they contain enough other people, by the law of averages some of those people - and somehow always the ones who end up sitting near me - are annoying. Some talk loudly during the movie. Some get their phones out, at best creating distracting light sources in the corners of my field of vision and at worst, making unwanted contributions to the soundtrack.

I've even known people to light up cigarettes right next to me, as if they thought the couple of empty seats between me and them made it unlikely I'd notice. And that created an awkward dilemma. Do I confront them? Do I ask them to put it out? Do I politely remind them of the no smoking policy operated by every cinema in the entire country for at least the past forty years? Do I go and find a member of staff? Or, do I just move seats?

When you go to the cinema, much like when you go to any public place, you enter into an implied social contract and agree that you won't behave like a total twat. But the problem in cinemas is that there is nobody around to enforce that contract, leaving disrespectful members of the general public to behave in any way they want, as long as they're careful not to push it so far that another citizen will challenge them on their behaviour. We British are polite. And a potentially negative side-effect of being polite, is that we're quite tolerant of other people's bad behaviour.

And then there's the noisy sweet wrappers. How has nobody figured out how to make sweet wrappers that don't crackle and crunch yet? We've put several men on the moon, so it wasn't a fluke. We routinely do organ transplants. Heck, now we've even figured out how to get computers to write. But for some reason a crisp packet or sweet wrapper that doesn't crunch and crackle loudly when interacted with, is just too far beyond the current capabilities of science and technology?

I blame that one on the cinema though. How can they sell me a cinema ticket for ten or fifteen quid, and then deliberately sell things which reduce the pleasurability of my viewing experience?

It is for these reasons, combined with a strong repulsion to superhero movies, that I have not been to the cinema more than a handful of times in the past decade. And when I did go, it's because my wife was involved.

But a few weeks ago something changed.

My wife met an old woman at the pub. I wasn't there and so don't know what this woman looked like or who she was or anything, but for storytelling purposes I'm going to imagine her as wizened and sitting in the shadows in a corner, lit only by a single tea light and ranting garbled nonsense. Most have written her off as a mad woman. But not my wife. My wife goes over and speaks to her. And she unclenches her thin wrinkled fist to produce a hand-drawn map detailing the location of the most perfect cinema you can possibly imagine. A cinema without noisy people, without mobile phones and without sweet wrappers.

"Impossible!" my wife challenges, in disbelief.

"Not impossible!" says the old woman, "Not impossible! It's real." Her voice trails off. She then becomes narratively useless and swiftly dies. Or maybe not. That's a bit dark, isn't it? Maybe she just goes to the bar for another shandy.

My wife returns home in a state of optimistic bewilderment, shows me the map and tells me where it leads.

"Impossible!" I challenge her.

"There's only one way to find out!" she says.

We drive for miles down deserted single track roads, past fields and crofts, through territory with no 4G coverage, until eventually we arrive. The wizened old woman was right. It is real. It's a village picture house. It's not a multiplex. There's only one film on at any given time. But it seems to be a cinema mainly attended by senior citizens. And the great thing about senior citizens is that they are well aware of the aforementioned social contract and they respect it as much as I do. They know how to behave and they do!

I walked into the screening room and looked out at the rest of the audience. My wife and I must have been the only people in there who didn't have white hair. We sat down. We watched the movie. No phones. No talking. No noisy sweet wrappers. It was paradise! And it was a good film too. No capes. No beat-for-beat done-to-death storyline. And no mention of Stan Lee.

It was perfect. So perfect that after I left I briefly began to question whether I'd dreamed the whole thing.

I feel about this the way Leonardo DiCaprio must have felt when he found The Beach in the movie of the same name. And the same rules must apply. So if you were expecting me to disclose the location of The Cinema I profusely apologise, for I cannot say. And the map has been destroyed. I cannot make the same mistake Leo did. I must follow the rules and maintain the pristine nature of The Cinema and the unparalleled viewing experiences it can provide. After all, I don't want OAP Tilda Swinton pointing a revolver at my head.

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