I must confess something to you all; this is an addiction which has no doubt cost me thousands over the years, caused friends to leave me alone and was the only sticking point when I met my lovely Husband. I am a movie geek.
I’m not some celluloid freak that will only listen to the critics or avoid the Hollywood blockbusters like the plague, only to focus on the beautifully shot indie filmmakers latest artistic triumph, I have one rule. Will I be entertained. Simple. I want to watch a movie and be transported to Hogwarts, be cheered up by comic one liners, inspired by true stories of adversity, seduced with moonlit walks through Central Park, be in awe of the classic glamour of the bygone age of movie stars and kick ass with superheros. It is the best kind of escapism and I’m first in line to put on the ruby slippers and click my heels into the new world.
When I met my Hubby, 10 years ago, we found common ground on everything, except movies. He hated the cinema or as I still affectionately call it the Pictures – ok ok I know that’s an old term and one that makes me sound like an 80-year-old but I struggled to say cinema as a kid and so it has stuck and to tell you the truth the old fashioned, romantic, sentimental me loves that it harks back into the great days of Hollywood. Anyway I’m off track. Right yes, back to the days of having to buy everything on DVD to watch at home with, more often than not, Hubby snoring beside me or being unable to hold his attention. The cinema had been vetoed as a couples goal and was a rare treat reserved only for the latest Bond, Harry Potter or Toy Story installment.
Then a miraculous thing happened, just like Richard Gere realising he had to open his heart to Julia Roberts, our move to Prague put cinema back on the negotiating table. The first year into our new life abroad, we had no English-speaking TV (we were yet to discover the expat work around for getting back on track with everything Walford) and so we had to resort to the novelty of talking to each other! When that wore off the endless Amazon orders followed, with the latest movies and box sets to keep us entertained through the cold winter nights and finally Hubby started to engross himself in the cinematic worlds and was surprised he enjoyed them. Ladies my mission was hardcore, I even managed to get him to watch all of the Twilight Saga, The Notebook and Beaches, if this is not proof that this guy loves me I don’t know what is.
Cinema was a big deal in Prague, the whole country really embraced the fact that they can make money from the film industry, both at home and abroad, resulting in hundreds of movies and TV shows shot on location every year. This meant the avenues for distribution were free flowing, so the choice of what to see was endless. The other positive was that in comparison the UK it was cheap. Huge multiplexes with the latest movie technology, comfy seats, leg room and immaculately clean, unlike their UK counterparts they don’t expect you to walk through sticky carpets and re mortgage your house for the pleasure. The Czech establishments didn’t seem to grasp the captive audience ploy and over charge you for everything, we used to get two tickets for under a tenner and then popcorn and drink would be about 2 quid all in – genius. The funny thing was to us this was a great deal and we would go maybe twice a month but more often than not we would be one of about 6 other people, as locals still thought it was a luxury activity. We became accustomed to watching films with Czech subtitles flashing along the bottom of the screen, which only became problematic when films have another language spoken, as they would only keep the Czech translation so not being able to speak Czech or Orc becomes an issue! We would frequently be the only people laughing, as the locals struggled with English/American humor and for extra long movies surprised at the sudden jolt to stop the film, in order to take an intermission!
Our cinematic experiences have continued upon our Kuwait landing. We discovered that we had a small complex down the road and an online service to reserve tickets was a step up from our Prague days. Hubby is very particular about where he sits, so online cuts out the huge debate and practically mounting the desk to see the seat layout on the ticket sellers computer screen! Logging on for the first time we noticed one major difference; you needed to state whether you were a bachelor or a family. The cinemas here have segregated seating which came as a bit of a shock, not knowing what this meant in reality , only that we could only select from a group of pre-assigned seats. We continued through the process and wondered what we would find when we made it into the auditorium.
Walking into the designated screen, we were greeted by an usher, yes you heard me an usher with a little torch and everything. He took our tickets and escorted us to our seats in the family area. To my relief the segregated seating was in force but there was no physical barriers or screens it simply meant that families (which in reality means the literal, plus women and couples) sat in the centre and the side banked seating are left for men without children or a women in their party. When I first told this to friends and family back home they were appalled by this direct separation of the sexes but living out here I completely understand, it allows people to watch the movie without any discomfort and within the realms of their conservative customs.
Now here comes the things that drive me nuts about my movie going in the desert.
- Its freezing! It maybe 40 degrees outside but to go to the cinema you have to dress for the arctic. I walk there in flip-flops and summer clothes and have to have a jumper, a pair socks and a pashmina stashed in my handbag to survive the air con induced winter climes.
- I’M ON THE PHONE!!! omg this drives me nuts, they take calls, text, take selfies, snap chat and have full conversations. You have come to watch a film, so watch the damn film argggghhhh
- Lateness. This seems to a Kuwaiti trait, everyone arrives to everything late. Even if a plane is about to take off people arrive late, so why am I surprised that sometimes 40 minutes into a movie people rock up and disrupt the entire screening. I’m anal about being on time and this is makes my blood boil (breathe stay calm).
- See it or miss it. Movies do not hang around here long, if you can’t see it opening week it is relegated to the grave yard showings or it disappears completely.
- Delays. The release dates for some films are way off the rest of the world. I will see adverts for films Coming Soon that are already on DVD or streaming on Netflix.
- Banishment. Due to censorship over the topic, rating or any other issue, many movies are simply banned and never even make it to the desert. Most of the 2016 Oscar nominations did not arrive for me to have my annual review of the key noms. I like to have an educated debate about who and what deserves a golden statue and Hubby was denied that joy this year.
- Censorship. This is a biggie so I’m going to dive right in…..
We have quickly learnt that you can’t expect to see a full version of any film here unless its the latest Marvel or action film. Some examples for you. We went to see Spectre, the latest in the Bond franchise, something that as a couple we love and were so eager we booked tickets for opening night. Basically this was the most PG version of Bond I have ever seen, James Bond the virgin. Every kiss was removed, resulting in some very messy edits which even butchered the infamous “Bond, Jame Bond” line, classic 007 innuendos removed, conversations with the Bond Girls were had and then cut suddenly as you see James getting dressed, making no sense of the dialogue, leaving you to imagine the licence to thrill. In Batman v Superman Gal Gadot’s Wonderwomen was pratically shown from the neck up, so no iconic image of the leotard wearing, rope wilding superhero here. Romantic comedies or dramas should be avoided as they are so diluted you lose the soul of the movie and its characters. I totally understand that 50 Shades of Grey was not a movie this part of the world were going to sanction but even I am shocked at the extreme editing, so that even kisses can’t be exchanged between your leading man and lady. Even the pure innocence of Disney princesses kiss their princes, so how can anyone see that as too explicit?
All that being said and knowing the pitfalls, it will not stop me going and enjoying my escape for 120 minutes. Next on my wish list is to experience the VIP cinema, with butler service, arm chairs and blankets to complete your movie heaven. For now, as I book my tickets for Captain America, I’m ok with my local tradition of an afternoon movie with my man, snuggled in my extra jumper and dissecting the film over a curry, whilst the sun goes down .