Working in a cinema, one of the complaints that I hear the most often is that everything costs so much. I can relate, having grown up in a modestly un-rich (not quite poor, but not far off it) home.
That's important when reflecting on my love of cinema, because to me money has always played a big part, too.
Growing up, when money wasn't a concern to me, I took for granted every trip to the nearest multiplex - at Pilsworth, Bury. I was a kid, just enjoying the thrill of seeing movies - not understanding why we only went one a month; not appreciating that actually it was probably all Mum and Dad could afford.
I've spoken before on these pages about how impressive that Pilsworth cinema was back in the day, for a kid growing up in Bury. Spotlights reaching out far into the sky! Life size Warner Bros. figurines in the foyer! Popcorn (and other concessions items, that the parents never let me buy - oh how I was jealous, and how I'd do anything for just one cinema hotdog...)!
I rediscovered cinema as a teenager, when I could afford to take myself. By now, the sheen had worn off the Pilsworth cinema, and I had changed too - now a college student, on the verge of his first girlfriend (probably).
I'd travel into Manchester every weekend, and use the AMC Cinema at the Great Northern, as it was a) cooler than Bury Pilsworth now, and b) cheaper than the coolest cinema, Odeon Manchester. These trips were often just me on my own, or sometimes with Dad. I saw some great films during this period - Joss Whedon's Serenity being a standout.
Suddenly cinema wasn't an adventure, but something that gave me an identity, and let me fit in with others my age - as somebody "cool" and "of the moment". I loved it.
I started dating my first girlfriend in late 2005, and suddenly we enter my third stage of cinema - as the socialite! Me and her would jaunt off into Manchester on a weekly basis and watch something at the pictures. It became a ritual of the relationship (hindsight is an amazing thing; here, I think, despite my love of cinema, it may have been better to take trips beyond the picture house...)
When the breakup happened, around mid-2007, I moped around for a long time. Go check; there's pages of me doing it here within this very blog. At the time, I was upset about a lot of things, and tried to cling onto as much about the relationship as I could - and time after time, I reflected on all those trips to the cinema, every one of them, and memorised every film that we'd every seen together! But that's just how much the trips to the cinema had meant (even if some of the films seen weren't particularly 'great' movies).
I spent a long time single after that - despite a brief hiatus in 2008 - and during that time, cinema became more important than ever before. Why? Because it became my job, as well as a favourite past time.
At the beginning of my employment, I was a model employee - working extra shifts, and bringing a shedload of passion to every working day. It was a privilege working somewhere that I had loved so much, for so long in my life. Sure, I had issues with the way things were run - but don't we all? I saw past them, and carried on with the job, as happy as I could be (I enjoyed work more than uni...).
As this was happening, I saw more films than ever before.
For the first time, the cinema was free! As already discussed, I'd been limited before on what I could watch, due to how much money I - or my parents - could afford to spend. Now, whenever I wanted to watch something, I could. Before, I had to choose carefully, in fear on wasting precious money on a bad film choice, and therefore missing out on the 'good' choices. Now, anything goes!
I'd use my comps to see everything, and often brought my family along too. It was bliss.
Then I moved away from my family, to busy London - and I worked at the busiest cinema there (& anywhere in the UK, for that matter). The stress of day to day life was unimaginable. It was a great release, then, getting to come back and watch films there. Often, we'd have staff shows of upcoming releases, just like we'd had at Bury. More often, though, would be me returning on my own to watch something - on my days off, or late at night. I'm actually quite a bit of a loner, and I enjoyed this time to myself. It was fun in a way, but amazingly tragic, too.
When I left that particular cinema, I moved to the West End (my current hideout). Choice of film is more limited there - with each cinema only getting a select number of films per week. Therefore, I haven't been exposed to as many new releases as before - and I've seen less films over the past 12 months at the West End, than at any point since my college days. Just this week I've set out to see more films, and blog about them.
That brings us up to date. Well, almost...
There's still one aspect of my love of cinema that I haven't spoken about - my desire to make something for it. Over the years I've written and directed, poorly, several short films. My heart wants to make more, and do something, that can entertain others - just like cinema has entertained me over the years.
I thought it would be fun to wrap up with some memorable cinema visits over the years:
Space Jam (1996)
We spent too long in ASDA with Dad buying sweets to smuggle inside... that we missed the start of the film. It begins a lifelong hatred of missing the start of any film or television programme.
Knocked Up (2007)
I watched it with my sister Donna, on a warm day towards the end of summer. We hadn't spent a lot of time together in recent months, and so it was great to have the chance to re-connect, over a film that we both agreed was quite something. Even to this day, I have a bit of a soft spot for the film. I don't care what the critics of it say!
Harry Potter 7.2 (2011)
Ah, one of the joys of working in a cinema! All the shows for the opening weekend were sold out - so I put on a private staff show for myself, in the lush Scene bar area at Westfield. Just me in the screen, watching the much hyped film ahead of its official release day. Bliss! Shame it wasn't particularly great!!
Another film I saw whilst working at Bury Pilsworth cinema. I watched this one with my friend Jack Porter; and we spent time afterwards discussing British cinema, and what we hope to achieve one day working within it. Another example of a brilliant 'cinema experience'.
The Lives of Others (2007)
Towards the end of my relationship with my first girlfriend, I went to watch this Oscar Winner at Manchester's Cornerhouse cinema, all on my lonesome. It was great seeing something not as a couple, but as an individual mind, concentrated at the screen.
Another trip to the Cornerhouse, this time as part of a college trip. We were seeing somebody speak live (my memory fails me on quite who - I want to say Roy Stafford; Jack, if you're reading and can remember, write a comment below confirming who it was!) and this was played as their post-presentation feature. It went on to win the Oscar for Best Film afterwards... but after I'd seen it, I went home to find out that my Granddad had died. The experience of that has combined, somehow, with my experience of watching the film - despite the fact that the two events were hours apart.
Bill & Ted (2011)
I watched this at the Prince Charles, during summer 2011. My friend Dan was visiting from Manchester, and the London riots associated with the death of Mark Duggan were unfortunately happening. I found the film a complete bore... and fell asleep at one part. Lucky for me, then, that the film was interrupted by a riot-caused power cut, and we were evacuated!!
The Lion King (2012)
When the film was re-released in cinemas, in 3D I leapt at the chance to see it on the big screen. I watched a show on the opening Friday or Saturday (always the best time to see a film) and found it completely sold out! I had a great time, as members of the audience booed and hissed at the screen. It was the closest I've ever been to full on audience participation in a movie!
Batman Begins (2005)
Immediately after being released from hospital (having just had an operation to remove my appendix), I went to see a special preview of this. I was probably in pain, but more over-joyed that Batman was back on my cinema screen - and in a quality film to boot!
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (2005)
My first date with Katie O.
Mamma Mia! (2008)
Don't judge me. I took Mum and my sisters to see it... and they loved it! So did I. OK, you can judge.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
I watched this at the opening gala of Bury the Rock, as a thank you from the management for all my hard work. A great film; and a great accomplishment watching it there, as I'd been looking forward to the Rock cinema opening for years.
Return to Neverland (2002?)
The first time me and my sisters watched a film without our parents.
Toy Story (1995)
I didn't understand its significance at the time, or the significance that Pixar would have on my cinema life, but WOW!
Batman & Robin (1997)
My first cinema disappointment. A horrible film.
Superman Returns (2006)
I don't care what you say, I liked this one. I watched it at the height of summer, in Imax 3D, with a girl that I loved. A perfect afternoon.
My first date with my most recent girlfriend; spent too paranoid that somebody from work would spot us together. The film was a mess. Happily, the relationship turned out a little better!
Inside Llewellyn Davis (2014)
My next cinema trip - in approx. 45 mins....