To say I work for a company promoting the importance of film and film clubs, and their place in education, I actually get to the cinema very rarely. But in the past month I have been to the same cinema twice and both experiences have been among my best ever in front of the 'frenzy on the wall'.
The Empire Cinema in Leicester Square is, unsurprisingly given its location, a little pricey, but when you're seated in Screen 1, a mammoth auditorium with two tiers and an enormous screen, you can't help but feel it's worth it. It feels special, a proper event just like the glory days of Purple Rose of Cairo-era cinema. It's not arthouse, it's big and brash and I love it.
Of course, what you're watching helps, and the two films I have seen in this screen are Toy Story 3 and Back To The Future. Admittedly, these are films that would gladden the heart when viewed on a stuttery mobile phone. But I've no doubt that it was the surroundings, the extra frisson you get with a truly huge audience, that means I have experienced no fewer than four rounds of applause in a cinema in the last month, having previously never been privy to such a thing. (I did clap in joyous anticipation when the opening credits started rolling on The Phantom Menace but my excitement did not prove infectious and unfortunately one person clapping does not constitute a 'round'.)
But yes, the films are superb. I have been actively waiting for Toy Story 3's release since the moment I came out of the cinema having seen Toy Story 2 ten years ago. I am saying nothing controversial when I suggest that the Toy Story films are among the greatest ever made - CGI or otherwise - but I was lucky enough to have been born at just the right time to both enjoy them as rollicking, very funny adventures, and appreciate the deeper sadness and subtlety that make them so special. There was quite a lot of pressure on the third instalment then (I'm sure director Lee Unkrich and his colleagues felt my expectation keenly) but I was genuinely never that concerned that I would be disappointed. And I wasn't.
I will have to see it again in the rather less atmospheric surroundings of my own bedroom on a small screen to really compare it with 1 and 2, but in the moment, it felt right up there, and probably better than 2. It is, for one thing, downright hilarious - there are moments of inspired physical comedy, Buzz being reset to a Spanish-language version is brilliant, and the introduction of (Barbie's) Ken a masterstroke. And yes, it will have you crying buckets - twice, if you're like me. There is one utterly devastating moment (believe me, you'll know it when you see it) and one bittersweet moment - both handled beautifully by a creative team whose heart and care is evident in every single frame. It's one hell of a film, and received two of those spontaneous rounds of applause; one at the end and one after a particularly brilliant bonus scene which screens during the end credits.
And so to Back To The Future, remastered and back in cinemas for a wide but brief release in October. A colleague managed to wangle me a ticket for this preview, and so the long-held wish to see the film firmly ensconced in my Top 5 list on the big screen was fulfilled. And it was great. Cleaned up but not overworked it looks stunning, and sharing this film with a load of fans was a real joy. It was interesting to see what got the biggest reactions and almost without fail it was performance rather than script that got the big laughs - Glover in particular, but also Doc's eye-rolls as Lorraine gets Marty to ask her to the dance, and Marty's squirming whenever she comes near him. We cheered when George laid out Biff, and gave Marty the big response those 1950s squares don't - that's EXACTLY what I wanted.
Up next: A New Hope, Labyrinth, High Fidelity and The Wizard of Oz. Maybe.