When I was a kid we used to go to the pictures. There were films on the telly, of course, but they were all at least a year old, even at Christmas and other holidays. I was lucky in that I belonged to my school’s film club, so, in return for running the projector, twice a month I would get to see proper films like You Only Live Twice, Ice Station Zebra, If…, though again, not new releases. If you wanted to see a new film, you had to toddle off down to the Odeon or ABC, And despite the cheapness of Saturday morning children’s presentations, seeing a mainstream general release film of an evening was expensive for a twelve year old.
By the time I got to University, “The Pictures” was more about the romantic side of life than about actually watching films, and people started saying “going to the Movies” instead of the Pictures. True, the University Film Society took it upon itself to screen films in a nice large lecture theatre, but I gave up after enduring several unrelentingly poor and achingly hip moody pieces by Warhol and other artists who should have known better.
A few years later, people had VHS video recorders (or Betamax, if they were unlucky and/or had taste), and it became possible to record films off air or even buy or rent them. And it is from this time that I suggest people stopped keeping books on shelves in their houses. There simply was not enough room in a normal house to keep both a decent library and a large film collection. I read a lot.
TV sets were still generally small-screen, and watching True Grit or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was not really a true cinematic experience, so going out to see a film was still something one did if there was a new film on release that was worth watching.
Things have changed. These days, anyone who wants to see a film with their family faces paying the thick end of £100 for their evening’s entertainment, and when you factor in such overpriced but essential items as pop-corn, drinks etc., you really want to be sure that the film is going to be worth watching. And thence the whole piracy thing.
It is perfectly possible to watch almost any film you could wish for free these days, albeit illegally, and then decide if it is a) suitable for your family and b) actually worth going to see in a theatre. I have to say that I base my purchasing decisions upon seeing digital samples. If it is a good film, I’ll buy it. If it isn’t I don’t. Films that I have purchased over the last couple of years, entirely because I saw clips from the web include District 9, How to Train your Dragon and Despicable Me. And yes, I know that the last two are “Family oriented entertainment”, but there is a great deal to enjoy in such pictures, not least all the little hidden gems and quotes from other films included for the benefit of the adult viewer.
The fact remains, though, that a lot of people actually buy a computer these days with pretty much the only purpose in mind being to download films from on-line sharing sites, store them on a large, cheap hard drive and watch them on a big-screen TV. (And yes, I know I am technically doing the same thin when I lend one of my books to someone, but I can only lend it to one person at once.)
Then there’s the whole music scene, but that’s another blog.