Rich Johnson, film lecturer at Nottingham College and writer for Little White Lies and Arrow Video, takes a look at the importance of cinema to our society - and how the screen industry is constantly changing and challenging us…
Cinema has always remained nostalgic. For British audiences, the glamour and escapism have often remained something out of reach, untouchable – the ultimate escape from the grey and (lesser) green folds we often find ourselves in. The preservation, restoration and appreciation of film have never been so important, especially within the digital age when even the melancholy of movie memories now vanish amongst the deluge of streamed content. Film – in the traditional sense of the word – is memory and so are those spaces we visited… those churches of celluloid. Therefore, films are to be experienced through visitation and curation, lending focus to the discovery of stories that have become closer and closer to artefacts. Distributed within those niche corners, they now survive as remnants of physical media championed by the boutique labels most cinephiles (and collectors) hold dear to their hearts.
I’m obsessed with film. Growing up in the 1980s, visiting the cinema felt like an event. It began with a long line crowding to see the latest Spielberg phenomenon E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982; that distinctive Amblin vibe of fuzzy familiarity, the signature sentimentality sucker-punched with a heavy dose of childhood trauma. Years would pass until you could see the film again, scenes playing over and over in your mind. No streams… only movie daydreams.
We dig a little and find a gem but for most of us (if you allow it) we are controlled by algorithms, those smartly shrunken screens
Today, it’s an instant fix, the twentieth century’s most dominant art form absorbed into a saturated media landscape; a deluge… a swamp we trawl through. We dig a little and find a gem but for most of us (if you allow it) we are controlled by algorithms, those smartly shrunken screens via commute; the passive infinite scrolling; content overload for the less content; movies repackaged as a TikTok sugar rush. Yet, despite the impact of other media over the years – the influx of television, video games and streaming – cinema has survived. Just about. Helping it survive is the last of the movie stars performing impossible missions and creating the ultimate cinematic experience, reminding us of those action heroes of yesteryear. It’s both nostalgic and refreshing as we watch (in awe and disbelief) a sixty-year-old man riding a bike off a cliff, plummeting towards the earth. Cinema on Cruise control.
Whether action and adventure, kitchen sink drama or fantasy, we choose to spend time with characters on the screen while sharing the experience with strangers in a dark room. Cinema is time and space, projecting us into (familiar) domestics or an epic universe of infinite possibilities. The credits roll and you spill out into the night… or are blinded by the light of a Savoy Sunday afternoon. Back down to earth, we’re reminded this is England, Not Hollywood. Yet, myths were forged here – the archetypal rebel evolving into an iconic swashbuckling hero of the Golden Age, the Americanised poster boy – Robin Hood defining the outlaw as any legend should… or at least the versions we have come to love on the big screen.
The Savoy retains its nostalgia like no other, while a major beacon – Broadway Cinema – remains a constant
A lot of big screens – those lost palaces, left to ruin and bulldozed – have now vanished. Forgotten Art Deco architecture – Fridays at the Futurist, Saturdays nights and Sunday mornings… even a Monday at the Metropole – are long gone, nothing more than urban ghosts. Despite being consigned to bingo halls or holes in the wall, some remain hidden and may trigger our memories. The Savoy retains its nostalgia like no other, while a major beacon – Broadway Cinema – remains a constant; one of many spaces around the country to have taken advantage of multiple platforms of delivery. A diverse programme also offers as many alternative viewing experiences as possible – Q&As, live events, streamed content, festivals and courses – which has helped retain a devoted audience during such challenging times. Here in Nottingham, ‘movie memories’ are forged for a 21st-century audience, spaces we belong to… offering choices for all.
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