The musty red shag curtains that hang over the stage slowly pull back to reveal a canvas screen, the vehicle through which I will indulge myself with a two-hour long story. These rustic platforms of storytelling, to me, have always been there, like an old-friend: that one you have known since you were just a little sprout and yet throughout all the changes of adolescence still find mighty interesting. The movie screen has watched me grow old from the days as a young child watching Aladdin, entranced by talking parrots and blue genies; to the times of my first film obsessions with the Pokémon movie and Harry Potter series; to the teenage years where awkward fumbling with bygones became a staple of every visit. You have watched me grow old, and yet you are in a stasis to me, for you could never age.
As I have grown and so to have my access to funds, I have discovered a problem with attending the movies: my appetite for the big screen far outstrips that of my friends, family, and girlfriend. It is hard to justify seeing the same movie twice in one week, or to go more than four times, therefore the pool of people I can draw from diminishes quickly. Once is enough for them, both for the sake of time and money.
So in lieu of this, (and due to my girlfriend going overseas vastly reducing my pool) I have of late taken to the cinema alone with only my soul, my Smartphone, and crowds of unknowns to keep me company. To say the least it is an experience.
The whole process of ticket collection is one designed for single customers, yet it is all too revealing when you are on your own. You wait in that line, herded towards the front counter, with the sound of laughter filling the hall. You are surrounded by groups and couples who can’t help but talk loudly, which makes your silence all the more deafening. Twice I was asked in the line whether I was on my own, both of them gave me pitying looks when I revealed the answer. Most of the time I just got inconsiderate looks as people always do when they judge a loner.
When you finally wait your way to the front and are served, I sometimes discovered some suspicion on the part of the staff. Most of the time they didn’t care, and apathy as always was my friend, but other times they eyed me off and I could see it in their eyes that they thought that I was going to film this movie with the hidden camera somewhere in my winter clothes. These were only ever the types that took their job too seriously.
Everything about the portion sizes of popcorn and soft drinks were designed for either group activities or a glut, and I am sad to say that I enjoyed a large size every time. But this is probably the only thing I was sad about in my whole experience and despite what I described I was never that embarrassed, because I discovered something glorious about going to the movies alone.
The cinema has never been more alive to me when I have experienced it by myself. I can laugh louder, allow myself to cry in public, mutter furiously at a plot twist, or even hide my eyes away from the screen if the subject matter is too much for me. When I am alone in the cinema nothing bothers me, the surrounding people and seats melt away to a blur as my whole world is taken hostage by that big, beautiful screen. What once seemed a quite tribal activity to me has transformed into a meditation. For once I am alone amongst groups and it does not bother me, because I have my old friend to keep me company and he knows I am a great listener.