My Love/Hate Relationship with Afternoon Cinema

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I am a creature of habit, always have been, no doubt always will be. Regardless of how much I yearn to be a spontaneous and dashing rogue with a penchant for outlandish misadventures, that can’t help but pile hilariously wacky situation upon hilariously wacky situation, culminating in some sort of mad dash/clock tower fight sequence/sex with a women of some description and personified as a French pot smoking alien (delete as you see fit). However, I am in fact, a slave to routine.

I really shouldn’t be, I am desperately, bum-scratchingly unemployed (to the point that I’ve had to start “clocking in” to my desolate existence every morning just to try and make myself feel like, maybe, I’m not entirely unemployed… Maybe my life is my shitty job) and lets face it, if there’s one thing that seems like it should be a given it’s that the delightful combination of unemployment, love of alcohol and being a resident in a city should spawn an endless stream of hazy misadventures. Hell, right now instead of writing this thing, I should be out buying a plane ticket to Mexico so I can enter myself into an underground Llama fighting tournament and punch one of those motherfuckers right in the neck. But alas, I’m a creature of habit and routine.

Anyways, the truth of the matter is, the combination of unemployment, afternoon loneliness (brought on from my housemates being real people and actually doing shit with their time) and the recent spunking of thirteen pound a month on a Cineworld unlimited card means that I spend most afternoons nestled in the dark womb of the screening chamber, caught in that unblinking trance-like state that we all love so much. And it must be said, that as much as I love cinema, I’m not sure if my regular lunchtime visits are doing our relationship any good.

You see, in the time before the unlimited card, I’d go see stuff that I was actually excited about, always with friends, and during a time that is more commonly thought of as socially acceptable to sit silent and motionless in a dark space, for roughly two hours, watching a thing that took an army and enough money to solve third world debt to create. But now, thanks to the wanton loneliness/free time/seemingly-free-cinema, I’ve rooted myself firmly at the 12:00-1:00 showing of whatever the hell is playing- be it on my “must watch list” or “remove eyes before seeing” list. The problem doesn’t stem from my miser-tastic personality trait of trying to squeeze every single penny I’ve spent on this card, by seeing everything- regardless of the presence of Adam Sandler. Rather, it is born from the fact that at 12:00 in the particular Cineworld I frequent there are only three types of people wandering around waiting to die, they are:

The Handicapped – These can either be old folks, or those with special needs. Now, there’s no problem with these guys going at this time, I get it, maybe the mentality is beat the queues that come later and generally not have to deal with any people- far point, people can be very irritating. Nothing wrong with this, though occasionally I’ve had very uncomfortable lift rides with a gaggle of old folks and had to make awkward, awkward small talk. And annoyingly, thanks to my deeply ingrained fear of strangers, I constantly struggle with my internal desire to simply hand them my wallet and scream “Not the face!”

Unemployed bums with unlimited cards – The bracket that I slot snuggly into, and this makes me so depressed some times I just stop, drop and cry until the police take me home. I look at these people; sweaty, nicotine stained, greasy haired individuals with esoteric Star Wars jokes written on their over sized black t-shirts and I think; I’m not like you, I don’t want to join the club, I’m not that desperate to waste away my life that I’ll wander here and watch anything, just so I don’t have to sit in my piss stained bed sheets for another second longer…

And then of course I trot up to the counter and say “one for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, please! I have an unlimited card!” And I realise I’m already in that club… I’ve always been in that club. Audible sigh.

Miscellaneous – Everything else, normally strange and out of place in a David Lynch sort of way. Case in point, during the early afternoon viewing of Gainsbourg (the French biopic of “screws as much as he smokes” song writer Serge Gainsbourg) the only people viewing what turned out to be a three star film, were myself and a middle aged Muslim women in a full Burka. Just found it a little odd. Like going to a basketball game and finding a Morris dancer sitting front row.

Anyway, so thanks to these clashing aspects of my life and stupid personality, I find myself inadvertently slumped in with an underground section of society It never even occurred to me existed. The early afternoon cinemagoer. Regardless of this, there are of course wonderful, wonderful perks to the early afternoon cinema experience. I’m not such an utter tit that the only reason I keep going back is because I have nothing to do, and I have a card that lets me swoosh my way in hassle free.

One can harp on as much as one likes about the virtues of experiencing a film in a crowded screening room, there is undeniably a certain electricity that seems to generate in the air itself when you begin to sense that a whole room full of people are simultaneously tuned to the same emotional frequency by the same images and sounds.

However, sitting in a screening room and watching something you are totally, balls to the wall excited about and having the whole thing to yourself, is a greedy, gutsy pleasure. Sure you can’t spout your inane, stupid opinions to someone afterwards, but who cares? They wouldn’t be listening to you anyways. Instead you absorb the full force of the picture into yourself. It’s a most cathartic experience, let me tell ya. This brings me neatly to my final point, my main problem with finding myself stuck in this early afternoon cinema rut…

This is going to sound like a pretty petty complaint, but it’s actually killing my soul. Being as the monolithic owl shaped building I frequent is almost totally devoid of paying customer life around this time of day, the majority of bleating human shaped things flopping about are made up of the buildings staff. Thus, there is without fail, upon every early afternoon visit to the cinema, a long, lonesome walk of shame from the entrance to the screening levels foyer (where snacks and such are dispensed) to the ticket taker (beyond whom lays sweet, or not so sweet, filmic glory).

I can not stress how woeful it is trotting along, attempting to keep any iota of dignity stuffed into yourself somewhere, trying desperately to avoid eye contact, knowing you are going to have to make eye contact, making eye contact, finding that you are now smiling like a stroke victim and you can’t stop yourself… As you hobble along towards not one ticket taker, but a bloody horde of the gits. Maybe there is only one helpful, friendly face when it’s a busy evening, but when it’s a quiet afternoon they crowd together, each one staring you down with a cold, glassy eyed look of utter contempt, that does not shout but rather replaces it’s voice box with a police megaphone and screams through distorted amplified crackles at you

“You sad, pathetic human thing. Stop using your unlimited card as a means to waste time and avoid doing something with your life. I may be a lowly ticket taker, but I certainly make more money than you, and look, I have friends around me. Where are your friends, lonely thing? Do you not have any? Did you scare them away by being such a massive dick? I thought as much… Dick!” and say what you like, they are all thinking that… Without fail.

The bothersome thing is, they are of course right; this “creature of routine and habit” excuse is rubbish, a smokescreen for my utter terror at attempting to do something with my increasingly flabby self. The unlimited card, a catalyst for procrastination.

Oh well, Vampires Suck is showing; I’ll go see that and hate myself.

Jonathan Day makes music as himself and also as himself in BAND LINK.

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