The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

An ice-cream in the break at Rarotonga or Musings over theatres and travelling

with 8 comments

Theatre on Rarotonga in the mid 90s. Image taken by Dave Highbury.It’s a small world these days, isn’t it? There isn’t a corner of the world that is so far distant that Harry Potter doesn’t find his way to it. The logo of the H&M store looks the same in London and San Francisco as it does in my hometown and it makes me a little sad. It takes something away from the joy of travelling.

But even if the repertoire sometimes is close to identical, the cinemas aren’t. And that’s why I love to include a visit to a theatre when I’m abroad. Not so much to enjoy the movie as such – I could as well watch it at home – but to inhale the atmosphere and see the differences.

The Cook Island Experience

In the end of the 80s I turned up spending three weeks on the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean, which wasn’t anywhere near as enjoyable as it sounds. Not if you were a budget traveller and spent the entire visit fighting creepy insects in a shelter that was cut off from the less-than-impressive beach by the airstrip on the island. When we weren’t suffering from strange jungle flues, one after another, we were bored out of our minds, having a way too small travelling budget to experience anything that was close to what we had dreamed about. It was a sobering experience, forever curing me from having romantic ideas about paradise islands.

There were two things that brightened our days though. One was the local beer, which was cheap and tasty.

The other source of comfort was the local theatre, which was situated in a simple hall with simple wooden chairs to sit on. I think they showed movies either in a 16 mm format or using a video projector that could as well be something you had in your home. The ticket price was laughably low and always included two movies, one after each other with a break in the middle, where everyone, old as young, went out to buy locally produced ice-cream in an effort to cool down in the dense, black tropical night under a starry sky before heading for the next show.

As I remember it, it was always crowded, – which really wasn’t strange, considering what a small choice of entertainment there was. And best of all – there wasn’t a single tourist around, apart from us. Going to the theatre it suddenly felt as if we came a little bit closer to the real inhabitants of the island and had a look into their everyday life.

US – a heaven for movie lovers

It’s been over 20 years since I last visited the theatre at Rarotonga and I don’t know what happened to it. I suppose this island too, however remote, has been included in the digital revolution in one way or another. Do they even need a cinema anymore or is everyone located to their own homes, watching their own big-screen television? I don’t know, but I hope not. I hope there’s still a cinema around to add some local flavour to the latest Harry Potter movie, fighting the heat with ice-cream.

Over the years I’ve examined a few more theatres during my travels.

So far I’m by far most impressed by what I saw in the US. The chairs were huge and comfortable, with plenty of space to stretch your feet, and a wonderful inclination. Even a short person like me could see the entire screen without having to peak between the heads of the giants sitting on the next row. Compared to what I’m used to, it’s a heaven.

My next trip goes to Scotland and and will mostly consist of hiking. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ll manage to slip into a theatre as I’m spending a couple of days inEdinburgh.

I don’t know what approach the Scots have to movies, but I’m sure there will be something that will remind me of that I’m still far away from home, even in this era of a shrunken world.

Written by Jessica

July 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. I agree about travel. I’m from the US, and first travelled to the UK in 1989/90. I was 26, on the cheap, and it all seemed so thrillingly exotic. Everything (other than the odd fast food place) just seemed different in a really interesting way. I even learned to drive on the left. It was a life altering experience.

    So, maybe it was just my age, but I’ve travelled extensively in Europe and even Central America in the past 10 years, and it just doesn’t have the same impact. It’s almost disappointing. My wife and I primarily do “adventure travel” tours where we’re cycling for 6 hours a day, or kyaking, or hiking. I wonder if that may be the issue.

    Perhaps breaking out of the “tourist” mode, and seeking more mundane activities like going to a movie would rekindle that feeling?

    Odd, I have never been to a movie theater in another country.


    July 22, 2011 at 7:34 pm

  2. Wow, that sounds like wonderful travelling! *Envious*

    But yeah, I know what you mean. I think joining the locals in their ordinary life is a great way to approach a country. Going to movies can be one way. Another one is to visit a supermarket. Not a tourist one, but the real one, where they shop their foods. It’s always quite an experience and shows the differences so clearly. Like when I travelled for a few weeks in California/Nevada, it was fascinating to see the abundance of cerials, sweetened drinks and the insanely long lists of completely artificial ingredients. On the other hand it was more or less impossible to find good bread. What was availabe was just a joke. The fruit on the other hand… yummie! This kind of observations are fascinating.

    Interesting travelling is still possible but you need to get away from the more general city quarters where the shops are identical from city to city.


    July 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm

  3. I often go to the Cinema when I’m abroad, or to the local theatre – I saw The Steamie last time I was in Scotland, and it was brilliant to watch it while surrounded by Scottish people laughing.
    I hope you enjoy your holiday there 🙂


    July 22, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    • Thanks, I’m sure I will! It’s been on my to-see-list since forever. I don’t know if I’ll be able to squeeze in a movie with so much else to see, but it adds something to the travelling experience in my opinion.


      July 23, 2011 at 10:23 am

  4. I’ve yet to travel abroad, but I do like going to my local theater if only to see what kind of people are attending a given movie. Sometimes, it’s what I expect, the older people tend to go to the more serious looking features while young people fill the blockbusters. But every now and again, I’m surprised, like when I saw Blue Valentine surrounded by a handful of young couples.

    James Blake Ewing

    July 23, 2011 at 12:31 am

    • Often it’s what you predict but not always. Sometimes I thing people might end up in the “wrong” movie because of some star name that attracted them. I got that impression when I saw “Never Let Me Go”. There were a bunch of giggling teenage girls there with huge cans of popcorn and soda, apparently aiming for a “fun” kick-start for their Friday night adventures. They looked utterly disappointed after the show.
      I absolutely loved that movie, but I can’t imagine that the darkness and the slow pace was anywhere near what they had expected. They saw their young pretty favorite actors, but in a completely different context.
      To be honest I was a little bit worried that they might destroy the movie with comments and so on – a big party of teenagers can sometimes end up doing that. But they behaved. Disappointed, obviously. But quiet.

      I see as many movies as I can in theatres, rather than at home. But that’s probably the topic for a different blogpost at some point.


      July 23, 2011 at 10:29 am

  5. I have fond memories of going to the movies in Mumbai (almost want to use the old Bombay name for this just because of the Bollywood connection:). We chickened out a little and went to an English-speaking theatre, which at the time was showing “Master and Commander”. Suddenly before the film, where I expect commercials, the Indian flag is on the screen and we are all standing for the national anthem. Even if there were no intended break in that movie there was one in the middle, for buying more snacks and whatnot. Both a beautiful theatre and the national anthem made it feel very dignified.

    Oslo has had more diversity in the theatres later years. Especially Gimle (which unlike the other theatres have wine-serving and often shows movies of the “artsier” kind), and Colloseum (which was renovated, they kept the large hall large, yay! Different options are good, but for some movies bigger is better). If you haven’t been to them, I’d be happy to show you the next time you’re in Oslo 🙂


    July 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    • I’m envious that you got away to see a movie in India. I was in Goa around Christmas and I had hoped to get to see a Bollywood production in its homecountry, but in the end it turned out to take a little bit too much and effort to get there and I had become quite lazy after too much slacking on the beach. I can’t help regretting it now. It’s a great way to enhance your stay in a foreign country. Those cinemas in Oslo sounds lovely. I must confess I’ve enver even been in Oslo, but if I’ll get there one day I’ll let you know. Maybe. 🙂


      July 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm

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