Holli Dempsey’s favourite cinema is the Curzon Soho, London W1. She criticizes the increasing prices of tickets and snacks

Holli Dempsey
Holli Dempsey
The Curzon Soho: 99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1
The Curzon Soho: 99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1

It’s still exciting to recall my first memories of cinema-going. My mother, brother and I would catch the bus to our local cinema, in a part of London that was once very industrial and disused. But I’m sure by now it has been covered with luxury flats. On this visit, we’d gone to see the first Men in Black film. It seemed quite fitting because, at the time, cinemas were already starting to look more and more like spaceships – you could easily be in the ‘Spaceship level’ of the PS2 game, TimeSplitters, than in a cinema.

Popcorn and sugary dummies

The popcorn aroma in cinemas is also such a familiar smell, telling you you’ve arrived. We could each choose some Pic & Mix to go in with, sugary dummies being my favourite. I now know why mum never let us have more than a handful – because of the small loan needed to pay for it if you weren’t careful. Then, as the ads ended and the audience ‘Sshhhhed’ everyone to be quiet, the film began. The feeling of watching a film in a cinema is special because you’ve chosen to surrender yourself completely to someone else’s story. There’s no pause-button or ringing door-bell to disturb your viewing – it’s just you and the story.
When I started secondary school, I remember how we would all be excited about going to the cinema. Thinking back, it was one of the few grownup things we could do at that age. The local youth centres were all closed down due to a lack of funding and you were too young to go to a pub or restaurant, so the cinema became a rare treat.

Cinemas were (and are) too expensive

Actually, for many years, we would plan this for the last day of term, also the film we would see and what we might wear. But not everyone could afford the cinema’s escalating prices. I remember friends making excuses as to why they couldn’t come. Looking back, their parents probably couldn’t afford it. Since then, ticket-prices, as well as those for the snacks, have sky-rocketed, especially in the bigger chains. In fact, only recently I saw a meal-deal offer in one of them which said: ‘Two bottles of water and a large popcorn, ONLY £9.99’! Only…? I really do hope that the joy of movie-going doesn’t become a pursuit that only the wealthy can afford.

My favourite cinema

As for my favourite cinema, I really love the smaller, cosier cinemas now, like the Curzon [Soho] in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue. The tickets there are cheaper, the popcorn tastier. And it’s also in the heart of Theatreland so, somehow it all feels more authentic. Recently, I went there to see the brilliant Birdman, set in New York’s theatre town. And because this backdrop is such an integral part of the film, to then step out into Soho on a buzzing Friday night after the film had ended, really brought the film to life for me.

Many smaller cinemas are facing closure at the moment and I think this would be a great shame. The large ‘flashing neon’ cinemas serve their purpose for the big blockbusters. But there can be nothing more charming than going to a cosy cinema that looks as though it could be from a different era… just like the ticket prices.

Amongst others, actress Holli Dempsey has recently appeared in Dr Who, Derek, Whitechapel. She will also be in the remake of Dad’s Army.

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