When movie-watching was an outing


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  • Wednesday, 15 Feb 2017

pic for chun wai (file pic) federal cinema

THE room was almost pitch black, except for the flicking of light. It is pretty cold, and the chairs are fairly uncomfortable – the little bit of cushioning on old, hard wood were worn. It is so quiet that you can almost hear your heartbeat.

And then suddenly – a scream!

This is the image that plays in my head each time I think about the cinemas from my childhood, back when we still called them “theatres”.

The scream was not booming from speakers during a horror movie – it was just likely that cockroaches, or even a rat, had run over your leg while you were watching a movie.

I had totally forgotten about that part of my childhood until recently. Over the past few weeks, I have picked up my old hobby of watching movies again.

As such, I have been exploring the many different cinemas in Nottingham – there are four major ones that I have been to so far.

A couple of them are exactly like the cineplexes we have in Kuala Lumpur – big screen, state-of-the art audio, posh seats and many screens in one building. But there are also the smaller ones – The Savoy, which exterior is reminiscent of the old cinemas.

You walk into the cinema through the cashier, who also sells the popcorn, drinks and other snacks.

Then there is the Broadway, known for its eclectic selection of shows, which have a number of halls – a couple of which are nice and modern, while a couple more have the harder, less comfortable wooden chairs.

Watching movies in both these locations got me thinking back to my first memory of going to a cinema. I was barely nine-years-old, and my Uncle Douglas had decided to take me to watch Die Hard.

I do not remember exactly but I think it was at the cinema that used to be on Petaling Street, now it is a hotel. I believe it used to be the Rex Cinema.

For many years after that, I would occasionally go watch movies with friends. Because I spent a lot of time in Petaling Jaya, where I went to school, we ended up watching many movies at the cinema at the PJ State area – I believe it is still in operation.

I have always enjoyed the magic of movies, and have watched many shows over the years in the comfort of the nice, fancy cineplexes.

What’s not to like? These days, you even have options – some cinemas are known to have bigger screens than others, some perfect for 3D movies and of course, the IMAX experience can be out of this world.

I remember when I first went to study abroad in Perth, Western Australia some 17 years ago, and were surprised that many of the cinemas there were not as “current” as the ones back in Kuala Lumpur.

In some sense, it seemed like we were much more advanced then – even in terms of when movies were screened. I would come home for holidays and watch a movie, only to see it premiering many months later back in Perth.

But I have not thought about those kinds of things in a long time. Cinemas these days seem to be built to bring out the best movie experience possible.

But the truth was, these things did not matter much to me – convenience has always been my priority.

I loved it when there were two cinemas opened during my teenage years at Bangsar Shopping Centre (which eventually turned into The Actors Studio theatre, and now completely renovated).

It was just up the road from me, and for me, the best cinema to watch a film. Never mind that soon after, there was that massive eight-screen – if I recall correctly – cineplex that opened at 1Utama shopping complex, not so far away.

I think I’ve come to a point over the years where it didn’t matter where you watch a movie because the major cinema chains in KL were generally all good and comfortable.

It helped that for many years during my career in journalism, I’d get numerous invites to premiers: always at the best places.

So, discovering this variety of places in Nottingham evoked a sense of nostalgia for me.

A friend of mine prefers to go to the Savoy over all others for its history – it is the oldest cinema in Nottingham, from before World War II.

Remembering what my childhood was like, I think I too will start thinking more about the choices of where I watch movies.

I’ve remembered that watching a movie as a kid, the movie experience was more than just what was on screen – it was the outing as well.

I do not long for the days where you had look out for cockroaches and rats at the “theatre”, but it is nice to remember once in a while how things were before modern life took over.

If only to be a bit grateful for the wonders technology has afforded us in the 21st century but also for the experiences that life has sent our way.

Niki is a PhD researcher in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies at The University of Nottingham, UK. Connect with him online at www.nikicheong.com/FB.


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