We brought mom to watch a movie recently – The Avengers. We park nearby and walk to the cinema multiplex. In the midst of the movie, the popcorn we were sharing disappears. It later shows up at home in on the dining table; mom had stowed it in her handbag and saved it for later!
After the show, as we were pulling out of the carpark, mom commented on how lucky we were that the carpark was not crowded. Her remark triggered my memories of how it used to be.
We used to have to park in rows in the cinema carpark, filling the lot completely. Nobody moves out until the end of the movie, and then everybody moves out. Going to the movies meant lining up to park, and queuing up to get away after that. Coming out of the cinema, we would make our way among the crowd going to their cars, and there would be the sound of cars unlocking and doors slamming. And then patiently (or impatiently) inching forward to get to the exit and out onto the main road.
When we were young, we would go to the cinema once or twice a month. Pick a show, pick a time, and go. Rex, Federal, Capitol, Cathay. Sometimes one of us would have to get down early to queue and get tickets – 50 cents each. In order to know what’s showing, we would have to crane our necks and scan the billboards whenever we drove past the cinemas in town.
5 big differences cinemas then and now:
1. Then: there was only one show per cinema, so crowds gathered before and after the show.
Now: cinema multiplexes have many different showings with different start times. So there are crowds all the time.
2. Then: you must show up at the box office to get tickets. You can see how popular the show is by the length of the queue. It is quite possible to queue up for half an hour and then see the box office window shut because all the tickets have been sold out. There would be complaints!
Now: you can book tickets online up to days in advance. If you didn’t and discover that the tickets you wanted are sold out, you can still buy tickets for a different show in the multiplex.
3. Then: there might be a break in the middle of the movie while the reel is being changed, or if the reel change did not occur smoothly.
Now: digitally, there should be no breaks in your watching pleasure.
4. Then: you hear people talking, eating and the constant whirr of the reel mechanism turning.
Now: you might hear talking, eating, and the beep of handphones.
5. Then: there were wooden flip down seats. The environment can get too warm, and you might see a few fans being flapped.
Now: there are cushioned flip down seats. The environment can get too cold and you see a lot of sweaters.