It is ironic that one of the best activities you can undertake with a friend involves sitting in a large, darkened room, speaking in hushed tones. But this is exactly what you do when you go to the cinema – with one major detail left out; namely that as you sit side by side in this darkened room, there’s a 60ft screen in front of you projecting beautiful, fantastical, thrilling or downright scary worlds, worlds which invite you in and take you on a journey.
And as with any other kind of journey, it’s most fun when done with friends, family and loved ones, people who can share in the excitement and wonder – as well as the popcorn.
While it is great to curl up on the sofa and watch a film at home, nothing matches the magic of the cinema experience. No matter how wide your widescreen TV, or how sophisticated your surround sound, they cannot compete with the immersive delights of a screen big enough to swallow a house or an audio system with the power to make onscreen explosions turn your spine to jelly.
So the next question is – what kind of film are you going to see? This can be the cause of prolonged and heated debate. One friend likes mysteries while the other is into comedy; one is a horror buff while another is looking for romance. But whichever kind of film you settle on, it is always more enjoyable with company.
Take a mystery or thriller for example – a major part of the fun comes from whispered words about where the story is going and who is doing what to whom. Is the mild-mannered librarian actually the sadistic kingpin pulling the strings? Could the investigating cop’s wife really be the killer? Is Raffles the Dog the mastermind behind a worldwide conspiracy to enslave the human race on behalf of aliens from Sirius? What’s more, given the sometimes complex nature of mystery plots, it’s good to have someone around to help clarify the issues, or else fill you in on the vital clue you missed while focused on opening that second bag of sweets.
A quick word of warning though – if you want to avoid becoming a social pariah, best not broadcast your suspicions and hunches about the film to the wider audience. But as the credits roll there are few feelings better than turning to your companion and saying “I knew it would be her! I knew it!”, or conversely, “I never, ever saw that coming!”
When it comes to horror films, there is clearly safety in numbers, right? Or maybe not… Being part of a cinema audience often works to heighten the tension – where else are you likely to hear two hundred people screaming in unison as the serial killer emerges from behind the door? And frankly, where else would you want to? So, it’s reassuring to have a hand to squeeze, a chest to bury your head in, or someone to tell you it’s OK, you can open your eyes now.Then again, you might be one of those wags who likes to do the opposite and give your companion a sharp poke in the ribs right at the moment when the killer’s knife is about to fall. Either way, like a particularly hair-raising rollercoaster ride, there’s a strange and wonderful sense of catharsis to a great horror flick.
From shrieks of horror to shrieks of laughter. Just as with scary movies, there’s something about being in a cinema audience that makes bringing the funny that bit funnier. Guess it’s true what they say about laughter being contagious. A classic comedy with your friends is an ideal way to set the tone for an evening or maybe cheer up a pal who’s been having a hard time. There’s also something to be said for the comedy genre as ideal first date material. Which brings us neatly to cinematic romance, both on and off the screen.
The cinema date is a time-honoured rite-of-passage, and there’s every chance that what you’ll be watching on the big screen is an epic romance. This might be accompanied during the film by an epic meeting of hands over the armrest, an epic kiss in the darkness, or even an epic display of generosity in your willingness to share sweet treats.
Just be careful you don’t get too carried away with romantic gestures once you’ve emerged from the cinema – remember, context is everything. That declaration on undying love might sound perfectly good coming from the lips of the leading man or lady as they pilot a biplane over the Himalayas, but turn into pure, unmitigated cheeseball when said by you standing outside the kebab shop on Neasden high street.
Nevertheless, whoever your company (and let’s face it, the cinema is always better when there are two of you) and whatever the genre of film you chose to watch, it’s the chance to talk about it afterwards that is one of the greatest pleasures of going to the cinema. After all, we all like to play at being a critic, pontificating on performances, plot and directorial flair, and we all like to have a debate with our friends about what we’ve just seen. Just remember all the etiquette for next time.
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