ROW K at my local movie theatre is like the row Goldilocks would choose if she was standing in a dimly-lit theatre aisle trying to pick the perfect seat, rather than porridge.
Row K is not too far forward that your neck is in spasm by the end of a two-hour film, and not too far back that your eyes are strained, or you're too close to the action in the back row where teenagers and people having mid-life-crisis flings tend to sit.
No. Row K is just about right, except when it isn't, like last Sunday when I joined about 50 other people to watch Little Women on a pleasant afternoon.
Row K - and not the middle section of row K where the seats were pretty much taken - but row K left of centre that should have been free, but had two occupants. So I sat in J instead.
It's been a while since I've been to a theatre to see a film.
I went last weekend because I wanted to see Little Women, but more because a newspaper article about how Netflix's dominance is sounding the beginning of the end for traditional cinema got me thinking about why I haven't been for awhile.
It's not because of Netflix or any of the other streaming services I don't have. It's not because there haven't been films along the way that I've wanted to see, because there have been. I just haven't bothered to see them.
So something's changed, because not too long ago I was a regular movie-goer, and then I wasn't.
I actually like my local movie theatre. It's old, near the beach, run by independent owners, and has always kept movies featuring car crashes and psycho serial killers to a minimum.
Its decor has always been on the unusual side as well, so that you feel more like you're sitting in your wild and colourful maiden aunt's living room, rather than a theatre. And I'm not complaining.
The alternative is the local mega-theatre in the middle of a mega-shopping centre. I don't have to give any more detail because you've already pictured it in its blank and boring glory.
So a little unique theatre where you have to wend your way through a foyer full off racks and dressers overflowing with frocks, hats, beach-type decor bits and pieces, books, craft items and handmade stuff, even before you get to the idiosyncratic decor in the theatre itself, is a pleasant change.
Anyway, as I was sitting there in row J, far left aisle, in a seat not directly in front of the two people behind me because I'm polite and don't like to block people, I started to think about why I hadn't been to the pictures for quite a while.
I didn't get very far before a phone rang to my right and a woman across the aisle started a loud and boring conversation with someone, about something too boring for me to remember.
"Ah!" I thought, in one of those eureka moments that always arrive complete with their own exclamation point.
"I haven't been to the pictures for ages because it's like watching a film in someone's loungeroom with a pile of annoying people who won't shut up, which sucks."
Yes, that's it.
And then the memories came flooding back.
I remembered that the last film I saw at a theatre was Vice in 2018, about George W Bush's vice president Dick Cheney, and the experience was enough to put me off going to a theatre until the other day. The venue was fine - another independent theatre complex near a waterfront with a history as meandering and colourful as the complex itself.
The problem was the people, and more particularly their eating habits.
Now I just checked how long Vice ran and it came in at a longer-than-normal two hours and 12 minutes. I don't have a problem with that. The film was great and I've seen longer. But nearly two hours of that two hours and 12 minute film was accompanied by the crinkling, rustling, crackling, smashing, slurping, burping and, probably, farting noises from the grazing folk who surrounded me.
And that's another thing. I can sit in a theatre on my own and still end up with the only other film-watcher sitting beside, behind or in front of me after the lights go down. It has happened. I don't get it.
A friend couldn't control herself one day when we sat in a row K-type position in a virtually empty theatre a minute or two before the lights dimmed, and sure enough, just as the pre-movie ads started, a fellow crept into our row and started spreading out the feast he'd brought to help him survive the 110 minutes of the movie.
I'd warned my friend that it would happen. But when it actually did she laughed until she cried. Quietly, of course.
"I'm a magnet for the last-second film watchers," I whispered. "Either they're scared to sit on their own on the other side of the theatre, or they use me as a navigation point in the dark."
Which brings us back to Vice and the grazing hordes. I don't get the need to eat vast amounts of crap while watching a film. A choc top on occasion, I understand. But I swear people set up a pig on a spit to watch Vice, and I'm sure a pizza delivery guy ran in at a certain point when supplies of popcorn, chips, chocolate, gummy bears and whatever else people were eating ran low.
And the phones. Don't get me started on the phones. People played with them through the film. One guy took a call. A couple of others smashed around to find phones in bags that rang jauntily and loudly for what seemed like half the film.
What they made of Dick Cheney and the impact of his time at the peak of American politics, I don't know, but I can't read his name now without picturing people chewing chow like cows chew their cud.
Not long before that I sat in the same theatre complex for a Tuesday matinee screening of a film about a gay man whose partner had died. There was more to it than that but it was clear my fellow film-goers - average age 80, a lot men - were there because of the Tuesday discount and had no idea what the film was about when they walked in.
"That bloke's a poofter," yelled one man a few minutes in, with the kind of yell that suggests his hearing wasn't what it used to be. His wife, presumably, shushed him for the rest of the film whenever he voiced his displeasure, but by the end I was the only one who'd taken a vow of silence before watching the film.
My local theatre runs sing-a-long movie sessions now that people don't shut up to watch a film. Which is why I'll be staying at home.
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