Movie memories: Remembering my cinema adventures.
Ever since I was little, I’ve been in love with the movies. Many of my favourite childhood memories revolve around trips to the cinema. In fact, cinema adventures and memorable movie moments light up the timeline of my life like gemstones. Some of my cinema memories are funny, some sentimental and some are best forgotten, but I’m going to share the good, the bad and the ugly with you anyway!
The cinemas of my childhood.
Although I’ve lived in Nottingham since 1990, I grew up in Stockton-on-Tees, (then County Cleveland, now Country Durham). Most of my movie memories centre around the old Classic Cinema on Dovecote Street (now the Arc Theatre and Arts Centre) and the Odeon Cinema on Stockton High Street. Once we were old enough to drive, my friends and I would occasionally venture all the way to the Odeon in Middlesboro. Then, years later, when I returned home during the University holidays, I’d go to the Showcase Cinemas at Teesside Park.
The Odeon Cinema in Stockton closed in the 1980’s to be replaced by The Mall Nightclub, which was featured on the 90’s TV show, ‘Hitman and Her’ with Pete Waterman and Michaela Strachan. The Mall was a big deal at the time, winning the U.K. Discotheque of the Year 1988, 1989 and 1990. It had it’s fair share of famous guests, too, such as a very young Take That and PJ and Duncan. Check out the fashions in this photo!
Favourite cinema experiences.
I’ve been to see some wonderful movies at the cinema over the years. Films that had an impact on me, moved me and stayed with me long after the final credits rolled. I think the first film to have leave a lasting impression on me was ET: The Extra Terrestrial. My sister and I went with dad to see it and I can remember it being like nothing else I’d seen before. We were completely enthralled by it, gazing open-mouthed, much like Elliot, as we set eyes on E.T. for the very first time. Me, my sister and my dad were in tears by the end.
Titanic was another film that marked a pivotal movie moment for me. There had been so much hype and build up prior to its release. James Cameron’s epic made headline news as the cost of production escalated and stories of the actors’ punishing schedules emerged. However, when the enormous vessel started to lurch and tilt, it really was a sight to behold. I was completely gripped by the sheer scale of it. Looking back, the dialogue was terrible, the acting was over the top and the characters were walking cliches, but was still a remarkable and groundbreaking piece of film-making, in terms of scale and special effects.
Not seeing The Smurfs and the magic flute in 1977.
My earliest cinema memory was going to see The Smurfs and the magic flute in 1977 (I know, it’s hard to believe I’m THAT old, but I am!). I say ‘going to see’, but in reality, we only got as far as the front door of the cinema. In those days, you’d queue around the block to see a popular movie and my sister and I had been told to wait in the queue whilst dad popped to the bank to get some cash. By the time dad returned, the queue had disappeared, leaving Ruth and I standing outside the door. By now, the cinema was full and he was left with two very disappointed daughters. Little did I know I would have been even more disappointed if I’d had to sit through the movie.
Dad made up for our disappointment by whisking us off to the Odeon Cinema around the corner and we watched The Amazing Spiderman instead! As you can see from this rare photograph, the Spiderman of the 1970’s, played by Nicholas Hammond, really wasn’t that amazing.
Grease is the word.
Going to see the much anticipated 1978 musical, Grease, with my family is one of my most vivid early cinema memories. I recall there being such a buzz about the film, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. I can remember dressing up and wearing one of my smartest outfits so I’d make a good impression on Mr Travolta!
I loved that film and remember begging mum for the soundtrack so I could sing along to it. I was hugely disappointed when, rather than buying the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, mum bought the ‘Pickwick’ version instead! Unbelievable!
Getting thrown out of the cinema.
Believe it or not, I was thrown out of the cinema during Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (1987). Well, I didn’t exactly get thrown out of the cinema, but my friend did and because we couldn’t let her leave on her own, we reluctantly shuffled out after her. I won’t mention her name (to protect the guilty!) but she’d put a big ‘gob’ of chewing gum on the seat in front as a ‘joke’ and just before the film started, a girl with long blonde hair sat down in the seat. The gum got stuck in her hair and she ended up in tears. I felt awful when the ‘joke’ turned sour, and even worse when the manager came to eject us from the cinema. Ironically, we had a lucky escape because Superman 4 was a terrible movie.
My fear of ending up on the front row.
I don’t know about you, but I’m so relieved that most of my local cinemas have allocated seating nowadays. So much of my childhood was spent waiting in cinema queues to make sure I got a ‘good’ seat. Such was my fear of ending up on the front row or being wedged in the middle of the row of seats that I’d have to get there at least half an hour before the doors opened. Now I can wander in after all the terrible local adverts have finished.
Why do they put seats so close to the screen in the cinema anyway?! We’re told not to sit too close to the TV and yet at the cinema, if you’re one of the unlucky ones, you’re expected to try and watch a screen that measures about 8 metres across, whilst sitting 1 metre away from it! I remember sitting on the end of the front row for Schindler’s List and having Ralph Feinnes’ ginormous evil Nazi face bearing down on me. It’s ridiculous having seats that close to the front! I could only take in about 30% of what was happening on screen. I could have done with someone on the other end of the row telling me what was happening on that side of the screen.
The Great Escape.
I’m never one to waste money and, believe me if I’ve paid to see a movie, it has to be absolutely terrible for me to leave part way through. Nevertheless, there are some films I simply couldn’t bring myself to watch all the way to the end:
- Men at Work (1990). Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen star in this forgettable and unfunny ‘comedy’ about two guys who work as garbage collectors. Need. I. Say. More.
- Nothing but trouble (1991). I had high expectations for this comedy film, with a stellar cast which included Chevy Chase, Dan Ackroyd, John Candy and Demi Moore. However, this humourless and absolutely tedious film where the protagonists are trying to escape a small town in America had me escaping through the exit.
- Waiting to Exhale (1995). I walked out of this romantic comedy featuring Whitney Houston within 15 minutes of it starting. It just wasn’t what I expected. The acting was poor as was the dialogue. Not for me!
The 1990’s, it seems, were a good decade for bad films!
I’m not at all rebellious. I break into a sweat at the thought of bending, never mind breaking, rules. However, when it comes to food and drink at the cinema I have to admit to smuggling in my own. You need a bank loan to afford cinema popcorn. Plus, I refuse to pay £5 for a fizzy drink made from 10p worth of syrup and carbonated water. I ‘pity the fools’ that go for the cinema pick-n-mix. I feel like screaming (ala Peter Kay) ‘Woah, Fudge? Are you mad?!!! Stick to the flying saucers and the flumps, unless you’re made of money!’ And what about those foot long jelly snakes? Putting just one of them in your paper bag would set you back the cost of a cinema ticket!
I remember meeting my friend at the cinema on one particular occasion and practically rustled my way up to her, my coat bursting from the two bags of popcorn I had stuffed inside it. She doubled up laughing at the sight of me as I waddled across like an expectant mother. But think of the money I saved!
My friend Marcus.
Some of my favourite movie memories include my many, many cinema trips with my childhood friend, Marcus. Sadly, he died suddenly a few years ago and I really miss him. What I wouldn’t give for one last cinema trip with him now. He was hilarious, caring, great fun to be around and I always looked forward to our movie nights, where we topped off the evening with chips and scraps at Ritano’s Fish Bar on the way home.
Marcus used to borrow his mum and dad’s old Volvo estate and we’d head off to the Classic Cinema in Stockton, or the Odeon in Middlesboro. Unfortunately, that car wasn’t always reliable. It was the days of manual chokes and in cold weather, it didn’t always start-up first time. I remember we had to push it the length of the car park one night trying to get it started.
Perhaps my fondest memory of my cinema trips with Marcus was the time we walked out of the Showcase Cinema at Teesside park to find near blizzard conditions and the old Volvo buried in a foot of snow. We managed to clear some of the snow and get into the car, deciding to sit it out until the weather improved so we could get home. As we sat in that car together, I finally asked Marcus something I’d been wanting to ask him for years.
I can remember the moment as if it was yesterday:
‘Marcus? Is there something you want to tell me?’, I asked quietly.
‘What do you mean?’ he replied, even though I’m sure he knew exactly what I meant.
‘Are you gay?’ I asked. In those days, it wasn’t easy to admit to being gay and for whatever reason, perhaps worrying I’d reject him, he’d never felt able to tell me. When he finally told me, it was such a relief for both of us.
Of course, It didn’t change how I felt about him. He was my good friend and I loved him, and if anything it brought us closer because his sexuality was no longer a secret. A burden finally lifted that evening, melting away like the snow on the windshield. I don’t know how long we sat in the car, but we ended up having a good honest chat about things. It meant a lot that felt able to talk to me about it all and to trust me.
‘How did you know?’ he’d asked me earnestly after he finally told me the truth.
‘I think it was the Madonna wallpaper and the Madonna scrapbooks that gave it away’ I said with a grin. We roared with laughter and proceeded to have a really good talk about things. It was a very special evening, and I owe it all to a snow storm.
My brief encounter with horror movies.
It was Marcus who persuaded me to go and see ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ with him. I don’t like horror movies at all…Especially if they’re gory. I’ll admit it, I’m a wimp! In fact, I rarely watch films with an 18 certificate. The Passion of the Christ, being one of the last 18 certificate films I watched. The problem is, I’m just too sensitive and squeamish. I could tell you half a dozen stories of me fainting at the sight of blood. Or, more accurately, fainting even when people talk about blood or broken arms and fractures. I’m so squeamish, that my feet go all tingly and I feel sick when people use words like tear, skin flap, gouge etc. At school, I passed out during talks on first aid, videos about pregnancy and labour and, much to my embarrassment, a talk on periods in front of a hall full of my peers and their mums.
Anyway, suffice it to say I ended up watching most of Freddy Kreuger’s antics on a Nightmare on Elm Street from behind my hands, closing my eyes for the worst bits. Nowadays, films involving sharp implements, nightmares, blood or general gore are off limits for me.
Intervals and usherettes.
I recall the cinema visits of my youth with fondness. In those days, it was much more of a treat and an experience. It was more like going out to the theatre, where you’d dress up and usherettes with torches would guide you to your seats. Back then, you’d occasionally watch a double bill and most of the movies had an interval. During the interval, an usherette would walk down the aisle and stand there with a tray brimming with Cornettos and tubs of ice cream.
I don’t miss the years before the smoking ban. I remember the days when people smoked in restaurants, buses and even on airplanes. If I went out to a pub or club, I always had to have a shower when I got home to get rid of the smell of stale tobacco. I spent most of my 1970’s childhood stinking of smoke, as my parents, like many others, were smokers.
When I first started university, smking was still allowed in cinemas. I remember at the Savoy Cinema, Nottingham, you could smoke if you sat in the seats on the right-hand side of the aisle but not on the left. I always thought it a ridiculous rule, as if the smoke would drift as far as the aisle, only to stop when it realised it could go no further. In reality, we all spent the duration of the movie passively smoking.
The Savoy Cinema, Nottingham.
Despite the ‘smoking years’, the Savoy Cinema, Nottingham, remains one of my favourite cinemas. Nestled in the heart of Lenton, where many of us lived once we moved out of University Halls of Residence, Th Savoy was cheaper than the other cinemas and the staff were friendlier too. It had double seats at the back for couples and still had the occasional interval where we could grab a cheeky Cornetto.
My university years may be long gone, but my affection for the Savoy Cinema remains. Nowadays, however, instead of me curling up in a double seat on the back row, my girls have enjoyed memorable birthday parties with their friends where they’ve have had their pick of the latest films and the whole cinema to themselves.
Making more movie memories.
I would never have imagined, as I stood outside the Classic Cinema all those years ago, that one day I’d be watching movies on DVDs or streaming them through a television, PC or tablet via Netflix, Amazon Prime or NOWTV.
Movies are so much more accessible now and the time it takes for them to make it from the big screen to your living room is so much shorter than it was when I was a kid. But, one thing’s for sure, as long as the cinema doors remain open, I’ll be lining up to add one more cinema experience to my treasure trove of memories.
Over to you.
I’ve shared my cinema memories so I think it’s only fair you share some of yours. Have any of these little gems have struck a chord with you or brought back some of your movie memories? Please don’t click away without sharing them!