So Much for The Silver Screen…
Despite my cynical whinging and passionate pining for the fjords (…of Kent?) there are in fact several aspects of life out here that I am becoming profoundly attached to. The perennial sunshine, of course, the beaches, the glamorous cocktail bars, and the joyous, garlicky epiphany that is the chicken shawarma – but the best of all the luxuries on offer, the absolutely best thing, is the Platinum Cinema.
I remember my first ever visit. A good friend warning me, with a deadly serious expression – “Are you sure you want to do this?” She leaned in closer and whispered, “Once you go Platinum, you can never go back.” I thought she was being melodramatic of course – a cinema’s a cinema, right? Wrong. Platinum is flying business class; Platinum is sleeping on a memory foam mattress; Platinum is drinking Hendrick’s gin: my friend was right – once you’ve tasted it, there is no way back.
Never again will I have to endure a film, sitting (horror of horrors) in close proximity to complete strangers; never again will I have to pluck other people’s sticky sweet packets from the seat of my jeans or shush the noisily texting teenagers sitting nearby. This suffering is behind me, for I have discovered Platinum.
What’s so great about it, you might ask. It is of course possible that people from countries other than the UK will fail to be impressed by the charms of Platinum. Maybe other countries have been doing this sort of thing for years and the UK is lagging sadly behind, like a fat, flatulent bulldog in a greyhound race. Maybe other countries just appreciate the miracle of film and therefore give its followers a suitably luxurious temple in which to worship. To me, Platinum was a life-changing revelation. Let’s cut straight to the chase: there is a nice man who will bring you a cup of tea while you are watching the film. There. How’s that? I know, I know. I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up off the carpet. Tea. While watching a film. And they even have Earl Grey! But that’s just the beginning…
There is a posh little reception area in which one can sit around on luxurious, super-comfy sofas, perusing the menu before the film begins. The screens are big but the cinemas are quite small with about twenty huge Lazy Boy armchairs which fully recline (it is the COMFIEST a human being can possibly be) and are arranged in pairs, so that it feels like you are in your own private cinema. There are cashmere blankets to snuggle beneath and a smart little table with a button to call a waiter. They bring you hot food and drink as well as the standard cinema favourites, such as their heavenly warm caramel popcorn. The best thing about it is that even if the film is disappointing (or if, like me, you’ve been dragged by your husband to yet another superhero movie – is 2012 the Chinese year of the superhero or something?), it is still a deliciously pleasant and utterly decadent experience. Even the loos are amazing. It costs about twice as much as a normal cinema ticket but, according to my complex mathematical calculations, that means I’ll just have to go about half as often. And I’ll love every luxurious minute of it.
Now, this is usually the bit in my blog posts where I compare the Middle East with home, cutting back to a nostalgic memory of England, and I get all misty-eyed about how lovely home is in comparison to this brave new world of shopping malls and skyscrapers… But not today. In my grandfather’s youth the cinemas of England were darkly romantic sanctuaries populated by glamorous usherettes and wooing canoodlers; the dust motes shone in the projector’s bright beam – magical moving pictures in which dancing girls danced and dashing heroes dashed. But by the time my jaded generation were queuing up at the box office, the Hollywood sparkle had become significantly less sparkly. Cinemas were seedier, scruffier; less Show Boat and more Showgirls… I remember the crunchy carpet, strewn with stale popcorn, the vile children throwing food and competing to eat the noisiest snack (it’s crisps), and the disturbing League of Gentlemen-esque characters employed as ushers, looming at me in the darkness; I remember the freezing air-conditioning, someone’s knee in my back and the torturous lack of leg room; I remember queuing for the filthy toilets and, after the film, the cold, dark descent down a sulphurous fire exit to emerge into the blinding daylight. I remember getting terribly excited that my local Odeon was undergoing a complete refit, only to discover they had just reupholstered the threadbare chairs with a faux-fur leopard-print.
Although the cinemas themselves were pretty vile in my formative years, my love of film somehow endured. Even with someone’s knee in my back and my shoes irrevocably stuck to an adhesive carpet, the magnificent roar of the MGM lion or the Fox Searchlight fanfare always sent a magical thrill through me. And I still get that magical thrill now. It’s just a much comfier, glossier, Platinum-plated sort of thrill: it shivers through me, a whisper of escapist anticipation, as I recline in my Lazy Boy arm chair with a steaming mug of Earl Grey, blissfully snuggled beneath a cashmere blanket.