Cinema: Culture without the boring bits
The queue of mature cinema-goers that snaked its way on Saturday night from the local art house cinema, and halfway out of the shopping complex that houses it, looked more like something you would expect at a summer rock festival than in the leafy private school belt.
(Here’s a cinema interview that the 40 plus types will like)
But people will queue - because in the 40+ market, the cinema seems to have triumphed. This particular venue has refined its product to the point where the mirrors in the bathroom don’t show anything below the bosom, and the lights Photoshop you in a flattering 40w - which is ideal for any middle-aged viewer as she mulls over what to select at the candy bar.
Not so long ago, the potential supremacy of the cinema as a leisure activity was undermined by the absence of alcohol. But this hurdle has now been overcome - with the double-edged result that you can experience the tension in your bladder rise in tandem with the tension in the plot.
While many may debate with their partners what actual obligation there is to talk at social occasions, the cinema realises the dream of a great number by removing - nay, precluding - any such obligation. Husbands everywhere know they can spend the night with their wife, and as many of her friends as she chooses, without wanting to dig out their eardrums after half an hour.
Like sushi, cinema also belongs to that rare and miraculous class of things that are both good for you and enjoyable. I say good for you, because it is a cultural pursuit. And let’s face it, cultural pursuits are not always enjoyable. Unless it’s your particular poison, culture can be more like an abdominal crunch: kind of satisfying, certainly good for you, but not really pleasant.
In contrast, film is like the long-touted fat pill – all the benefits with none of the work.
Generally, cultural activities are also pretty personal. For many refined individuals, opera is an opiate; for others it is more like a rhinoceros: undeniably astonishing, but no need to subscribe. I waited in fear at Christmas when a particular opera fanatic told me she had bought me tickets to something very expensive and special.
I can’t refuse such tickets in case it means I’m ungrateful, wasteful, a Philistine or all of the above. At least with the cinema we can all invite and be invited with reckless abandon – confident that no one is attending because they think they ought to.
And as for the candy bar, where else but the cinema is it perfectly normal for a 50-year-old executive to walk around with half his face obscured by a chocolate-coated ice-cream cone; an appetising legitimisation.
Perhaps the cinema’s stiffest competition on a Saturday night is from restaurants. But if your predilection is for fine food you have a choice between a film at $18, and an El Bullian style foam at about that price per gram. Fancy restaurants also require greater organisation in the form of bookings, greater effort in terms of appearance, and that elusive consensus between friends over what constitutes a fair price for a coddled quail’s egg or three slivers of pearl meat.
Maybe it is a consequence of modern life, but the idea of retreating to a soft spot, in a semi-dark, climate-controlled room; where no one can talk to you, and apples and blackberries are not in season, is increasingly appealing.
It’s almost as good as a womb.
Lastly, there are the amenities. There comes a point in life where seats matter. Meeting at the cinema is like going to a 10 minute cocktail party that ends with a guaranteed seat. And where they serve popcorn instead of pumpernickel.
And of course, if you do the 7 o’clock session, you can keep your social life alive and still be in bed by 10. Perfect.
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