|Pre-demolition: The derelict site of the former ABC Cinema in central Tunbridge Wells|
These days I rarely see any movies at the cinema. I tend to make a short list at the start of the year (predominately the next run of Marvel Studio movies) that I'd really like to go and see, and am happy if I make it to two-thirds of that list.
But once upon a time - when I had a job - I went to the cinema almost every week.
While the Tunbridge Wells town centre cinema (pictured above well past its prime, and now -after a lot of faffing about - demolished) was still open, and I was friends with the manager, I saw pretty much everything that came out.
Of course, at the time, I was entertainments' editor for the local paper and self-appointed cinema critic. I even had my own regular - and well-read (if not well-written) - column: At The Cinema With...
But when Odeon bought out the site then closed it so it didn't draw audiences away from their new, dismal, overpriced grottiplex on the out-of-town industrial estate, the rot started to set in.
I still went reasonably regularly, even though I had to pay(!), and got to see pretty much everything that interested me.
But these days, now that I can't drive, it's just too much hassle. It's expensive, as well as inconvenient, has uncomfortable seating... and there are "other people" there when I'm trying to watch films.
To mangle Jean-Paul Sartre: "Hell is other people."
Despite what you might see elsewhere (in some movies, actually) watching a film is NOT a social experience, especially when you're paying the sort of money now being asked just to get through the doors.
If I've made the effort to go and see a film, I don't want to hear other people chattering, whooping, munching popcorn etc I want to be in my own little bubble where I can sink into the story unfolding before my eyes.
Truth be told - and it's probably a product of my age as much as anything - I find that far easier to do at home these days.
With the advances in home entertainment - the quality of DVDs and Blu-Rays, for instance - there is no longer the need to go to the cinema and pay a fortune to get annoyed with the unappreciative crowds of oiks who treat it as a social club.
Sure, I'll have to wait two or three months (sometimes a bit longer) for the movies I want to see to come out on Blu-Ray, Netflix, Amazon Streaming, or Sky, but I've realised I don't mind waiting. It's a small price to pay for being able to watch a film how I want to, in comfortable surroundings with minimum distractions.