In the past year I have spent 132 hours* in the cinema. I think I have crossed the line from ‘hobby’ to ‘crazy’.
It all started in September 2012. I enjoyed going to the cinema quite regularly with friends, maybe once a fortnight, and as we were under 26 we’d get cheaper tickets in a few of the cinemas in town. So my friends and I would head out to Bercy village, or the MK2 at Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, and see a film for around €5.
For those not in the know, 26 is the magic age in France at which life changes. At the age of 26 you pass from the jeune (young) category into the scary, unknown abyss of true adulthood where you are now expected to have finished your studies, secured a full-time job, and be willing to pay the normal price for all the things that used to be free or cheap (museums, cinema, train fare).
So our cinema-going back then was a pastime, a way to not completely waste a Sunday by staying in the flat all day nursing a hangover. But something was stirring within me. I wanted more; more films, more cinemas. Paris has a huge number of cinemas, both chains (UGC, MK2, Gaumont) and independents, and I wanted the freedom of popping into a local cinema on a whim or a rain cloud. Compared with other cities, Paris has reasonably cheap cinema tickets at around €10 for a fully functioning human being, aka an adult.
But there are also many deals on offer to encourage you even more. I opted for the UGC unlimited card. At only €20 a month I would have to go 4 times for it to equal the price of a youth ticket, and I could go in any one of the 50+ cinemas affiliated with the card. However, I’m not a great fan of branching out on my own and since I usually go to the cinema accompanied by a friend, I chose the duo option; paying €15 more to be able to take someone along with me.
And this is where it all escalated. We started nipping down the boulevard to Bastille on a Sunday evening where there are 3 cinemas to choose from. Or heading to the big multiplex at Les Halles for a blockbuster, trekking to the Champs Élysées to sit in the comfiest cinema seats in Paris at Le Balzac**, hanging around the latin quarter where you have your pick of independents, often showing great classics.
I remember reading recently that the average person goes to the cinema 3 times a year. I know seeing a movie in the cinema is in decline for a number of reasons and I do wonder what would get people going more, as I am sure most still find it an enjoyable pastime/ hobby/ obsession (delete as appropriate).
VOD (and illegal streaming for that matter) makes it so much easier to watch at home with all the comforts that can bring. HD, Blu-Ray, 3D TV can bring your home viewing closer to the cinema experience. For those who don’t live in a 3 mile radius of 6 screens it can be a bit of an effort to go all the way to the cinema and to pay a hefty price. And sometimes the selection can be quite discriminating. Thankfully in Paris there is a varied choice of movies to see.
Also I now have some favourite cinemas, those with enough leg room, comfy seating, great films, and a polite clientele. I do avoid certain ones where I have had only bad experiences with other moviegoers. Turn off your phone means turn off your phone, put it away and leave it there. Not put it on silent or vibrate and continue texting/tweeting throughout the film, annoying everyone in the vicinity whose eye is caught by the blueish glow of its screen.
By all means have a snack, but choose appropriately. A bag full of individually wrapped chocolates which you munch on incessantly, crinkle after crinkle after crinkle, causing you to giggle in embarrassment as the people around you tut and sigh, is not cinema fodder.
However I love the large dark room, the knowledge that you are going to take a break from your non-stop life for a couple of hours, completely stationary and enthralled. I love the complete dissociation from the outside world, like going to the cinema in the daytime and being shocked by the light as you come out. I love seeing the movie magic on a huge screen rather than my 12″x9″ laptop. I love the feeling of solitude during the film, and the collective sharing after as you see everyone else’s reactions.
I don’t think I’ll be quitting my cinema habit anytime soon.
Call me a hoarder, here are all my cinema tickets:
* I haven’t taken a stopwatch with me, but I have been to see 66 films and I’m going on an average of 2 hours a film. This is probably underestimating.
** In Salle 2. Proclaimed as such by the owner of the cinema himself, and definitely the best of all that I have tried. This is where I saw Ken Loach’s The Angel’s Share last year.