Back to the Strand

10th August 2020

Cinema has always been a huge part of our family’s life. I’ve been taking my niece and nephew to the movies since they were so tiny they’d conk out halfway through the trailers and leave me sitting there, like a numpty, watching children’s movies on my own.

My family’s been missing the cinema enormously so, tonight, we jumped at the chance to attend the Strand’s special screening of Back to the Future. My niece said it was so long since she’d been to the cinema, she couldn’t remember what it was like. I think time goes quicker when you’re ten. (Or if your name is Marty McFly).

I have to admit it felt a bit odd to arrive at the Strand and be greeted by staff members, who were no doubt smiling, though their facemasks weren’t giving anything away. The whole ticketing process took a little bit longer than usual. We were asked to turn up early to avoid bottlenecks at the door. We had to sit in allocated seating spread out across the screen and sanitize our hands before we came in. Going to the cinema, isn’t the same as it used to be. But, weird as these changes might feel, it was actually reassuring to see all the safeguards put in place to ensure my family feels safe, relaxed and able to enjoy something we love to do without being crippled by anxiety. In true Strand fashion, even the safeguarding was cinema-themed. Staff members wore movie print facemasks and there were movie quote posters pinned on the walls dispensing important information.

After a few minutes, we all forgot that cinema was no longer normal. My nephew said it just felt like something we always do. Which is high praise for the good folks at the Strand and the effort they’ve put in these last few weeks. Before this evening, I was worried that cinema would feel different now; that I’d have to learn to love it all over again. By the time Marty arrived in 1955, I was back in my happy place: watching great movies in a space as familiar as my living room, (though, I have to give credit to Mimi and her team; the Strand is not the cinema she was before Lockdown. I’ve never seen her look so sparkling clean).

It was nice to be out and not wearing slippers. It was nice not to be watching film on my laptop screen. But more, than anything tonight, I am thankful for the chance to begin making new memories with the people I love. Neither of the kids had seen Back to the Future before and afterwards, they were full of chat and questions. Good cinemas, as Mimi pointed out in her welcome speech, are always much more than buildings or screens. Cinemas bring people together. Cinemas forge community. Cinemas are all about story and I am so glad to see the Strand and others, back and beginning brand new chapters of their own stories. I fully intend to see all the films.

By Jan Carson

This blog was written as part of Film Hub NI's  #BackToCinemaNI  campaign