What I think about when I think about the cinema

Up until recently, I haven’t really been able to think about what I’ve been missing out on in the time since me and my number one leisure pastime have been separated. It’s not the movies; I’ve been able to see far, far more of them of late. It’s the other things I haven’t given myself a chance to miss and mourn. After a couple of weeks thinking about what I would like to see the back of when cinemas reopen, I spent a bit of time drifting about in the finer feelings I have for the church of cinema. Here’s just a selection that came to me while reading back through my viewing from 2019…

—Finishing the entirety of your gigantic popcorn before the BBFC card on opening day of something very stupid.

—Returning to your seat safely after having desperately held your bladder, now able to engage with the film once more.

—Someone gripping your hand very tightly at something deeply unexpected happening.

—The ‘plane taking off’ feeling of excitement halfway through a festival screening of something unexpectedly excellent.

—Trying to judge whether people are in step with you based on the relative level of applause between short films in a programme.

—Stifling laughter as my friend whispers vile obscenities in my ear during the silence of the BBFC card.

—The one film a year I cry at.

—Finally getting to see something that there’s no other way to see otherwise and it’s just as excellent as you could have imagined.

—The absolute relief as an experimental film ends.

—The pin drop quiet during an Extremely Horny film.

—Discovering that you and your viewing partner had wildly different views about the merits of a film and knowing that a treat of discussing is about to unfold over several drinks.

—Discovering during the film that you and your viewing partner have equally eyerolling disdain for something and anticipating picking over the cadaver afterwards.

—Discovering you and your viewing partner both loved what you watched and sitting in awe and ‘aw shucks’ at some of the best moments.

—Holding a new beloved’s hand to the point of discomfort.

—The drowning feeling of being sucked under into sleep in NFT1.

—Being absolutely slathered in a film, emerging alone into the night, carrying its mood with you.

—Blinking back into the light during a daytime show, realising how little time you’ve been away in actual hours.

—The magnetic connection between audiences that can cry and laugh together.

—The feedback loop of rising hysteria of being the only person laughing at a film.

—Thinking about all the filthy eyes that have looked at an old film print before you did.

—Checking your phone after a screening and discovering some minor drama has played out and resolved itself without needing your intervention.

—The vindication of shushing someone and it sticking [still not sorry].

—Watching a print crackle and fray at its start, then even out to pristine as the reels change.

—Leaving a director Q&A as it starts.

—A daytime screening after a long row of days at work, getting slowly day drunk during the show.

—Total joy as the end credits hit, somehow feeling a share of the elation that someone, somewhere managed to land something perfect.

—The dawning realisation that you are the only person who will be in this screening.

—The realisation that it just you and someone else’s grandma at a screening you wouldn’t have pegged her for.

—And most of all, being able to decide to see a film on a whim on your way home, without any thought to who might wonder where you are for a few hours.