Woah, we’re halfway there, woah-oh sitting on a chair. At least, that’s where you’ll want to be when you go to the cinema. In this series, I’ll explain loads of stuff because there’s loads of stuff I know a little bit about and for the rest I’ll use Bing. However, I can’t explain what these stains on my socks are or how to make butter tarts but I can explain a little bit about how other stuff either works or doesn’t.
A cinema, also known as a movie theatre, the pictures or the Massive Telly, is a place in which whereby you can view and imbibe large coloured moving objects through your eye holes. It was once known as the silver screen but the price of silver went up so much, they had to replace all the screens with a kind of fabric made of shiny plants. In essence, it’s a building or outdoor setting in which (or out of which) you can be entertained by people pretending to be other people in situations which are also made up, unless they’re not and they’re re-enactments of things that happened but without the actual people they happened to being there. These things are called movies or ‘films’. Not films like the ones you get on top of your cinema-issue nacho sauce, but movie films, like what you’d see on the telly.
There’s this place in America called Hollywood, where all the films are made and the eight actors who are in all the films live. They get paid all the money and play all the characters, without actually changing their facial expressions, accents or emotions. These people are Nicholas Cage, Tom Hanks and Melissa McCarthy.
Some cinemas are only one inch thick but some, multiplexes, have multiple plexes. Lots of screens showing different or the same film simultaneously, concurrently or consecutively, depending on the length, breadth and amount of seats. Since 1970, subwoofers have been used to add low noises to the soundtracks of films making monsters more monstery, dinosaurs more dinosaury and 2001: A Space Odyssey sound like there’s more Timpanis in the room than paying patrons. These days of course, everything is digital and the cameras play things off hard drives but back in the day, the movie had to be loaded into the camera by contractors and each reel lifted off and replaced by the next one causing a pause in the film which was filled by people called Usher who wore Apple-bottom jeans, sold ice creams and dreams.
On entering somewhere like the Odeon or Cineword or your Nanna’s sitting room, you’ll be faced with a choice of things to put in your mouth whilst you sit in front of the film(s). If you want to pick stuff out of your teeth for the next week and a half, you should get some popcorn. Someone gets loads of little hard balls, puts them in a microwave (see Barry Explains Microwaves for details) and then gives you it in a bucket, all fluffy and covered in salt. Yum. Other things that come in buckets include but are not limited to fizzy liquid with a hint of flavour, like they left it next to someone thinking about Coca Cola and hoped it would infuse. It takes three people to carry this bucket of liquid into the cinema and costs more than a family ticket to Disneyland.
Other ‘food’ includes Hot Dogs, which might actually be made of dogs but nobody can check because whatever they were before being turned into meat cylinders has been well and truly disguised. Whatever animal it was is now a lovely smooth paste which is rolled around all day on a hotplate which causes the mashed-entrails to solidify to the point it can be picked up with tongs and squeezed into a stale bun. Some people choose to put mustard on these as this is the only condiment with a strong enough flavour to render the hot dog edible. However, in some cheaper cinemas, it’s entirely possible that the hotdog is made of something that came out of a dog, the onus is on the consumer, as is the burden of proof should a court case arise later in the day.
Nachos are sometimes sold in Cinemas. They can only be sold in triangular form because if they were any other shape they’d be tacos or something. Pythagoras came up with the formula for the perfect nacho and as they’re equilateral, you can dip them easily, in any direction, into something wet and sticky they give you in a pot which resembles either cat vomit, something you’d expect to seep from an infected blister or what would happen if you stood on a frog. Your best option is to buy a bag of sweets which was made by someone else off the premises. Of course, once you’re in the movie theatre, you can’t escape so they’ve marked up all of the prices to almost ten times what it all costs to make. You haven’t got any option but to buy everything they sell and they stop you bringing your own food in. They confiscated my Iceland Meat Medley at the door, any my microwave. Once you’ve got your ‘food’ and ‘drink’ you can approach the person standing guard at the start of one of the dark tunnels either side of the ‘food’ bit.
The Guardian of the tunnels looks at you suspiciously, like you’ve no right to be there and demands to see your ticket. Tickets used to be printed slips of card or paper with the name of the movie, which screen it was showing in and what time the film started printed on it. Nowadays it’s a QR code on your phone which can only be read using a handheld scanner which, to be honest, could actually be an empty tissue box with a glow stick sellotaped to it – the guardian making the ‘beep’ sound with their mouth and just letting you in regardless.
Once inside the dark room lit only by glowing snakes on the floor, you get to work out where your seat is using an alphanumeric system. Seats F2 and F3 should be six rows back and 2 and 3 seats from the left with your back to the screen. However, this isn’t always true as they sometimes start the rows at E or have AA and AB as the two front rows.
If you book a seat in the back row, it can be assumed you’ve come to the cinema for a bit of a snog. You can wait up to three weeks for someone to oblige but it’s nearly always worth the wait – and you get to see several films whilst you’re waiting.
It is best etiquette to wait until the movie starts before opening your packets of crisps and crunching on your nachos. Loud food is exactly what cinema audiences demand these days, coupled with children who kick the back of your chair, run around unsupervised in the aisles and, in some towns in East Anglia, spin around in front of the screen with their arms out playing ‘dizzy ducklings’ because the film is so dull.
If you’re lucky enough to go and see a 3D film, someone is paid to come round and poke you in the eye whenever something is thrust towards the camera in the film. It’s very realistic. The best part of the cinema experience however is the adverts before the film starts. Movie theatre bosses decide to tell you what time the adverts start, not the movie, which means you have to get there a good half hour before the film starts and sit through mind-altering subliminal messages which are designed to make you spend the money you need to feed your family and heat your home on something you’ve never nor will ever need. Sometimes, they put an advert on for a car. They hope that you’ll see a car drive down a street four or five times, sit through a two hour film and then, the second you leave the cinema, go next door to the Audi garage and drop Thirty Grand on a new Q4. This never happens; however, they used to advertise that hotdogs were available in the foyer but all that stopped years ago when trading standards released their literature on what hotdogs were made of. Another thing they show before a film comes on is a trailer which shows you almost the entire film so you don’t need to go and see it when it comes out. It also warns you what not to go and see by telling you it’s got Jared Leto in it.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the British Board of Film Classification might make it illegal for you to watch a film if you haven’t been on the planet for a long enough time. You’d need to be here for around three years to get in and see a cartoon about anthropomorphic animals hitting each other with stuff, but you’ll need to have been here a lot longer to watch something with graphic violence, sex and drug references like Harry Potter and the Opium Den of secrets. Exposure to this kind of thing before your brain has caught up to being able to be influenced by it enough to go home and do some of it yourself, can be very dangerous.
Netflix is killing cinemas though now, I saw them having a fight in the car park and Netflix had a flix-knife, and cinema only had some out of date Ben and Jerry’s. People prefer to watch movies in their houses whilst wearing pyjamas and scratching their arses without being judged.
Next week – Barry Explains : Ed Sheeran’s hair.