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Steven Spielberg, the End of the Film Industry and Remembering Cinema

If we're in a position where giants like Spielberg and George Lucas can't get their flicks onto the screen, then we're not in a good place.

Well, damn.

Spielberg's gone and called time on the entire film industry. If we're in a position where giants like Spielberg and George Lucas can't get their flicks onto the screen, then we're not in a good place.

Maybe the pulse has stopped.

Maybe that's it.

If that's so, what will I remember? What will be the images of cinema that I take with me to my grave?

Well, it won't be my local multiplex, that's for sure. I'm a child of the 70s, and my thoughts about cinema are tied up in all the movie-going experiences of my childhood. Specifically, a cinema called The Classic in Westcliff-on-Sea. The memories are never straightforward - they hop about. Bear with me; I feel a nostalgia binge coming on.

Poster frames outside. Six frames, left to right. The two central ones are advertising 'Now Showing'. When I try and focus on the one second from the left I can't get a firm image in my head. It might be advertising local businesses. It's certainly not as interesting as the others, which are advertising all sorts of coming attractions. The one furthest to the right is advertising late night shows on Fridays and Saturdays. The posters for the late shows are pretty lurid, and either scare me silly or tempt me with the forbidden depending how old I am at that particular moment. Scanners, Videodrome, Play Misty for Me, Come Play with Me, Lemon Popsicle, the Confessions series through to The Witches of Eastwick, Ruthless People and beyond. Movies I'm not allowed to see. By the time I'm old enough to do so, many of them will be quaint relics of another age. So the power lies in the posters, and for me at least it always will. In the tease, not the strip. Sell the sizzle, not the steak.

Inside, the lobby smells of cigarette smoke, candy and popcorn. An assistant looks out from behind glass, dispensing little numbered tickets depending on what screen I'm heading to. This member of staff must have changed a dozen times over the years, but is present in my mind as either a cheerful balding guy or a faintly disapproving middle-aged woman. They ask my age once only (Lethal Weapon 2, 1989) and the rest of the time just check smoking or non-smoking.

Screen One is downstairs. A whole bunch of memories trip over one another as I try and picture the screen. I'm sitting looking at the pillars and the cladding on the walls whilst waiting nervously to watch The Black Hole, the advertising for which both scares and intrigues me. I glance at my Scooby Doo watch and wonder how many minutes until the film starts. Scooby's arms are the hands of the watch, and I'm getting pretty good at working out the time. Then suddenly, I'm sitting with my Mum, eating Revels and watching Breakdance while some kids smoke dope a couple of rows behind us and I wonder what that weird smell is. Then I'm watching Howard The Duck with my buddy Dan Rice, and we're the only people in the screen until about a minute before the film starts.

If the film isn't in Screen One then I have to head for the smaller screen upstairs, which means walking past another 'Coming Soon' poster. It's for Damien: Omen II and now I'm too scared to go past it because I'm only a toddler. But somehow I manage it, and I end up in the upstairs lobby looking at a big cardboard stand for Battle Beyond The Stars which looks brilliant, and suddenly I'm a couple of years older and I'm at Saturday Morning Cinema. Screen Two is full of a hundred or so kids all about my age, and a long suffering member of staff called Uncle something is entertaining us and handing out prizes prior to the films. The films are a collection of shorts and cartoons. The main feature is called Electric Eskimo and is about 50 minutes long. There's a serial called Chimp Mates which we see a different episode of every week, except we don't because it's now 5 years later and Uncle something doesn't do the Saturday Morning Cinema anymore, and they show proper, actual films and don't give out prizes. The only criteria is that they have to be PG, so the films aren't always tailored to a crowd of 7-13 year olds. Thus we watch Police Academy 2. And then I'm once again too old to be going to Saturday morning cinema.

And then I'm making plans to go off to University, and I'm too busy thinking about sex and music and pubs and girls and videos to particularly worry about that little cinema down the road because I've, quite frankly, got a lot of other stuff on my mind. And I don't even bother to go to the final show there in 1991.

And then suddenly I'm 39, I'm married with two kids and I'm probably as grown up as I'm ever going to get. Steven Spielberg has predicted the end of the film industry and I'm idly thinking about writing a piece on the subject for my blog on the Huffington Post.

I've stopped at a Halfords in Westcliff-on-Sea because I need to pick up a replacement indicator bulb. I'm staring up at the building and remembering that it stands where a cheap little second-run cinema used to be.

For some unknown reason, I'm fighting the urge to cry.

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