I love going to the cinema. Even as a young kid I remember Saturday Moring Pictures being the highlight of my week. We’d take the train into Windsor, pocket money burning a hole in our pockets, and sit there slurping Kia Ora orange and cheering on Flash Gordon and Mighty Mouse in an auditorium packed with other kids. The noise was deafening. After 3 hours of pure escapism we’d leap back into the street from the cinema steps, acting out our hero’s escapades: “Die Ming!”, and shooting each other with finger ray guns.
The best moment of a cinema trip for me is the moment when the house lights fade to nothing indicating the start of the show. The first part would be just ads and trailers but that doesn’t matter. The extinguishing of the house lights sends a message to everyone to shut up, face the front, and lose yourself in the magic of cinema.
That feeling has stayed with me into adulthood. Until now…
I can’t remember the first incident but at some point in the last year I went to the cinema and the ads started with the house lights STILL UP. This immediately threw my peace of mind against the wall and the sales messages went right over my head as I sat there in a cold sweat, staring at the house lights and willing them to dim. Were they faulty? What if they’re faulty and can’t be switched off? That would be terrible! They must be faulty. No-one in their right mind would leave them on once the show’s started on purpose. Would they? And of course because the lights remained up the people around me carried on chatting and playing with their phones. NO! You’re ruining it! I guess it’s probably some new anal Health & Safety ruling or something:
“Ooh I know, let’s leave the house lights up during the ads so our customer safety and security is further protected by guiding latecomers to their seats.” Well we all managed fine for the last several decades thank you very much, so you can keep your patronising risk-averse attitude to yourself and leave our f***ing house lights alone!
After a few such incidents I began to calm down: it’s only the ads after all. But then it happened. One time I went and the house lights stayed up during… THE TRAILERS!
My family will tell you that at this point going to the cinema with me stopped being fun. I actually said out loud, “The lights are still on. The trailers have started and the lights are still on. They’d better turn those damn lights off quick. If these lights don’t go off soon I’m going to complain” Then of course you’re faced with the dilemma of missing the start of the film because you’re outside complaining to some disinterested spotty teenager who doesn’t even understand the problem, let alone give a shit. The cold sweats returned, I fidgeted in my seat and my blood pressure started bubbling.
Since then I’ve been to the cinema in the U.S. and noticed the same thing there — clearly there’s an international conspiracy sharing of “best practices” going on.
If they ever, EVER try leaving the house lights up during the actual movie there’s going to be trouble. In fact There Will Be Blood.