Judgement Day beckons for the commercial cinema

The closure of Crouch End's cinema is part of a nationwide shutdown. Picture: Archant

Crouch End's cinema closed during the pandemic - Credit: Archant

We turn off our phones at three places. At a funeral. Aboard an airplane. At the cinema. We turn off our phones out of respect, out of procedure, but rarely out of personal preference.

The screen follows us around all day, crying for attention, to be loved alongside the competition. The 42” flat, the 26” monitor, the 9” tablet. Rarely is there ever just one.

Last year we Brits went to the cinema a record-low 44 million times. That sounds like plenty until you consider that in 1946 that number was at over a billion and a half. Back then, the cinema represented a window of indulgence through which a prosperous and futuristic destiny could for an evening at a time, be realised. Nowadays it’s as much about what you’re not watching as what you are.

Oliver Shasha, bassist FEET, says the band were on the cusp of a 'breakthrough' tour before the pand

Oliver Shasha wonders about the future of the cinema - Credit: Oliver Shasha

The technological utopia that we’ve constructed around our everyday lives is undoubtedly a reflection of progress. But at times that same path weaves dangerously close to parallels of the 2008 Pixar epic WALL-E. With the help of 2020 attendances and all the bonus features of a worldwide pandemic, Judgment Day beckons for the commercial cinema.

Though it may sound paradoxical to name a 30ft tall cinema as our saviour from a multiscreen armageddon, going to the cinema represents an important refuge from the world inside out pockets. When we turn off, we’re left with nothing but a singular source of attention, relieving us of the notification anxiety lottery, the immortal scroll, and the neck-dislocating glance up and down. Stood beside the self-driving cars and the Apple Watch, the commercial cinema feels like a technological chalk board. An impractical and costly version of the armchair and the TV dinner. Moving forwards though isn’t the only direction, and at times returning to a single-screen environment feels like a necessary step back.

Seventy-years on from the heights of the cinema, the otherworldly spectacle no longer exists as a lone purpose. Nowadays, that 30ft tall screen is the break we all deserve.

There’s only one saviour from the cinema in our pockets, the cinema in the living room and the cinema at work, and that’s the cinema. 

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  • Oliver Shasha is bassist with the band FEET and a Muswell Hill resident.