Growing up with Liza – 11

By C.E. Pereira

Chapter 11 – At the Cinema

LIZA’s Daddy was a movie buff and he made sure his children got to enjoy going to the movies too. If there was a Sunday Matinee shows suitable for children, Liza and her two brothers were allowed to go on their own to watch the movie.

In the 1960’s the price to watch a Matinee show was less than a dollar and yet it was a luxury for some.

Liza’s first time to the cinema was when she was five years old. The whole family was going to watch a Matinee show. Her brothers had been to the movies before.

The movie they were going to watch was titled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Daddy said it was a Western and the lead actors were Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.

The queue at the ticket counter was long. As they waited for Daddy to buy the tickets, Liza asked her Mummy, “What’s a Western, Mummy?”

“It’s a cowboy movie.”

“Oh goody. Cowboys with hats and guns and horses.” Liza clapped her hands.

As usual the two boys drew imaginary guns and went “bang! bang!”

Once Daddy got the tickets, they followed him to the doors that had thick, heavy red drapes. The attendant led them inside the cinema with his flashlight.

It was dark after the sunlight outside. Only soft dim lights lit the aisle. Liza held on tightly to Mummy’s hands while the two boys held on to Daddy’s.

Little Liza was fascinated with the very large room filled with rows and rows of chairs. But what caught her attention was the red curtain in front of all the chairs.

The attendant found them their seats and the children sat between their parents.

The cinema was filling up fast. Everyone was talking. Her Daddy was smoking his cigarette. Mummy was drinking her lemonade. Liza and her brothers were busy eating their pop-corns. And there was background music too.

Suddenly the music stopped. Then all the lights went off. The cinema became quiet as the red curtains opened and Liza saw a white screen. The little girl was watching in awe.

She saw a stream of light coming from behind and shining onto the screen which later Daddy told her that it came from the film projector.

Then Liza saw her first moving pictures. They were larger than life. It was a preview of another movie. Liza thought the movie had started. But her Mummy said it hadn’t started yet, that this was an advertisement.

When the movie started, from beginning to end Liza was fascinated and enthralled by it. She didn’t understand the movie itself. What fascinated her was the desert, the gun fight, the explosion of the bridge. And she was trying to figure how everything fitted behind the screen. The cinema had become magical to Liza.

After the movie while her Daddy took her two brothers to the washroom, Liza kept looking round the corner of the building hoping to see the cowboys and horses.

Her Mummy asked, “What are you looking at Liza?”

With eyes big as saucers Liza said, “Waiting to see the cowboys and horses come out from the back of the cinema.”

Liza saw that her Mummy was trying not to laugh. Tenderly, her Mummy explained that the film was on a reel and the real cowboys and horses were not here. It was still magic in Liza’s eyes.

From that first time at the movies, Liza always looked forward to going to the cinema. Of course there weren’t many movies they could watch so those that Liza got a chance to watch she enjoyed herself to the fullest.

Sunday’s were cinema days. Her Daddy will ask Liza and her brothers to check the newspaper to see what movie was playing. If it was a James Bond movie her Daddy always said NO to this. Cartoon, family and cowboys movies were rated good for the kids to watch.

Movies that Liza remembers the most were ‘The Ten Commandments’, ‘Ben Hur’, ‘The Parent Trap’, ‘Spartacus’, ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Tarzan’ ‘Gone With The Wind’ and the animated Disney movie ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.

The movie that frightened her the most was ‘The Devil at 4 O’Clock’. Erupting volcanoes and molten lava river were too close to her imagination of hell.

The best seats in a cinema were the balcony seats. Then came the back row seats on the main floor while the front row seats gave you a neck ache as it was too near the screen. Pricing ranged from most expensive to the cheapest.

Liza and her brothers usually were at the cheapest seats if they went by themselves. But if Daddy and Mummy were there then it was the back row seats on the main floor of the cinema.

To Liza and her brothers, going to the movies on Sunday was a real treat, Their favourite cinema was the ‘Mido’ as Liza always got to enter free.

There was also the part of cinemas that Liza chooses to forget. The floors were usually sticky from spilled drinks mixed with groundnut shells, cigarette butts and the disgusting chewing-gum or bubble gum.

Today, the cinemas are all but gone. Now they have Cineplex which are smaller than the cinemas of those days. These Cineplex are located in shopping malls.

Liza still goes to see movies but not very often. Where once she went almost every Sunday, now it’s like twice a year.

The cinema which was once magic to Liza during her growing up years still has its pull. Only now Liza watches her favourite movies in the comfort of home.

To be continued…

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