Big screen goodness at Movie House Cityside

10th September 2020

After recent visits to QFT and The Strand, writer Jan Carson took a trip to the Movie House at Cityside and was reminded of the beauty of seeing major blockbuster releases on the big screen.

A few years ago, I made the painful decision to get rid of my television. I was wasting too much time plonked on the sofa watching mindlessly. I wanted to have more space to read and write. I also wanted to watch a little more intentionally. With this in mind I began going to the cinema around three times a week, planning ahead to ensure I didn’t miss any of the new releases I liked the look of. At the cinema I wasn’t tempted to check my phone every few minutes. Watching a film in a space which wasn’t my living room felt much more like an occasion; a special treat after a long day at work. Also, there was the sheer viewing pleasure of seeing films as the directors intended, on the big screen with proper sound.

Five months ago, when Lockdown started, my every-other-day outings to the cinema came to an abrupt halt. I didn’t even have a television to indulge my movie-watching habits and was reduced to watching films on my tiny laptop screen. Some films transfer easily to the small screen. Most lose something of their sensory impact the instant they leave the cinema. So, when the cinemas re-opened and high-octane, blockbuster, Tenet was finally released, I was determined to catch it on the big screen.

Last night I made my first post-Lockdown trip to the Movie House Cityside to watch an early evening screening of Tenet. I had my pick of the times. It was showing in around half a dozen screens. I have a huge fondness for this particular cinema. Back in my student days, when it was newly opened and still called Yorkgate, it was a regular haunt for me and my friends. I’ve had so many furious post-film discussions gliding slowly down those escalators. Lately, it’s been my go to afternoon cinema on rainy winter days when an after lunch matinee is all my brain feels capable of. I was keen to get back to the Movie House, not least because their VIP seats are amongst the most comfortable in Belfast. I may, or may not, have dozed off in one, half way through The Irishman. (In my defence, it was very long).

Cityside Movie House was just as I remembered with the added benefit of having some of the most thorough Covid-19 safety measures I’ve experienced anywhere. My allocated seat, which I’d booked online, was quite some distance from the next audience member and felt reassuringly safe. A staff member greeted me at the door, scanned my ticket from a distance, and ensured I used the hand sanitizing station and a machine for taking the temperature of my wrist. This was the first time I’d encountered this technology in Belfast and far from being intrusive, it felt like a really quick and sensible means of preventing the spread of Covid-19. I wish more businesses had this facility. In the foyer and at the concessions stand, (where I purchased my first bag of proper popcorn in almost six months), almost everyone was wearing a mask, though inside the screen social distancing and good ventilation meant it was perfectly safe to remove your mask.

I’m not going to say much about Tenet. I suspect student-era me would’ve been dissecting it all the way home. But I will say it was an absolute joy to see special effects and sound designed for a cinema on a huge, impressive screen. I felt every explosion and every round of gunfire ricocheting round the room. It definitely beat squinting at my laptop and trying to crank the volume up. If you’re going to watch a big action movie you need to see it in a cinema like the Moviehouse. To paraphrase another big action movie, I’ll be back, probably next week.

By Jan Carson

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