by Vicky Stringer
While I didn’t get to go to the cinema very often as a wee young thing, I do remember exactly what my first-ever cinema viewing was: Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). We were on a day trip somewhere with my cousins; looking at the re-release date of 1983, I must have only been seven years old at the time. But I remember the excitement as our mothers were debating whether to take us or not, and how we all squealed in delight as my Aunty Joan decided it was an opportunity not to be missed because she’d always loved the film and wanted to share it with us. Sadly, I remember that part more than the actual film … that’s kids for you!
The next time I was able to see a film at the cinema, I was twelve years old and, feeling all grown up, went along with my best friend Tamsyn to watch her choice of Beaches (1988). Her older brother took us and paid the entrance fee (after arguing with the cashier about my age) and then he went off to do his own thing until we were finished. It was amazing–I sat and cried floods of tears, and as soon as we came out of the theater, we went straight away into town searching for a photo booth to take a picture of ourselves together. That film had Tamsyn and me talking about life the universe and everything for weeks.
The first film I chose myself was quite a different kettle of fish: Oliver & Company (1988). I loved it so much that I was humming the tunes all the way home and didn’t mind that I’d had to go on a solo venture to watch it (my friends thought a cartoon film was too embarrassing to view at the oh-so-grown-up age of twelve. Things like that have never bothered me–I still read pre-teen books, too, if the story is to my taste). I’d saved all my pocket money just so I could go and watch it. I managed to make the kids’ club saturday viewing at half price by pretending to be younger than I was! Being short has its advantages on occasion; I could always pass for younger as nobody believed I was as old as I was.
The film I remember most clearly from my younger years, though, is the one that immediately sprang to mind when I was asked to write about my first cinema experience: Turner & Hooch (1989). I’d gone with another friend and the place was packed, so we had to sit right in the front row. I remember the idiot boys behind us throwing popcorn at us until the film started, and I recall MOST clearly having to hunch down in my seat so that nobody could see me crying and scrabbling through my pockets in the hope of finding a tissue … though later my friend did admit that she, too, had to hide her tears. I loved the crowd clapping and stomping when the title screen went up and the lights went down, and I enjoyed the strange, cardboard-like texture of my popcorn (it was a mandatory purchase as the cinema was the only place you could get it back then as far as I was aware–and it was only available in salty).
In all honesty, those are the only films I can think of as definite early cinema experiences. I think I saw The Black Cauldron (1985) at the flicks, but it’s hazy and my memory could be playing me false. I could name many other films but would be hard pushed to remember if they were first viewed on VHS/ Betamax, television, or at the cinema. I do recall that Labyrinth and Top Gun (both 1986) were repeatedly rented on VHS for viewing in our household–and I don’t even want to THINK about how many times my brother made us watch White Men Can’t Jump (1992)!