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Thu, 18. Feb. 2021

When I was nine my parents surprised me with an evening outing to the local cinema. It was a school night, which made the trip especially thrilling, but in retrospect what I remember most was the power cut midway through the film.

When I was nine my parents surprised me with an evening outing to the local cinema. It was a school night, which made the trip especially thrilling, but in retrospect what I remember most was the power cut midway through the film.

A step too far?
I imagine we treated this unexpected break as just another interval because in those days it was common to show movies in two halves. There was a practical reason for this, of course. The interval allowed the projectionist to swap out the film reels.

Such limitations no longer exist and intervals have all but disappeared in many cinemas, ushering in a host of other changes. Single screen picture houses have given way to multi-screen megaplexes that show a dozen or more films several times a day. High-end sound systems and inventive seats – including those that gyrate and move in time to the picture – offer new ways for you to customize your cinematic experience. A newish boutique cinema chain in the UK has furnished its locations with an eclectic mix of seating including deep arm chairs and double sofas, giving the impression of a cosy lounge.

As for refreshments, it’s no longer a choice between a tub of popcorn and block of ice cream that you scoop out with a mini wooden spatula. Many places now offer an onsite bar/restaurant – a logical way, I concede, for cinemas to grow their revenue by offering new options to customers.

But I fear this is now being taken a step too far. I know of at least one cinema chain where you can order full dinner offerings from your seat inside the cinema itself. These venues clearly have effective air conditioning systems, but it’s disconcerting to watch a film while the person in the next seat tucks into a plate of steak and chips. Call me a curmudgeon, but as the old saying goes, there’s a time and a place for everything.

Interval magic
Happily it’s not this way in Gstaad. In fact, if you were going to create the perfect cinema, I think Ciné Theatre Gstaad would tick most boxes. Friendly staff? Check. Comfortable seats? Check. Ice cream? Check. Interval? Check.

Yes, you still get an interval in the middle of each film. It’s such fun. You’re sitting there enjoying the picture when – boom – the action stops, the lights go up and the curtains draw across the screen. It’s at this point you can generally tell the visitors from the locals. The former sit up straight and gaze around, a puzzled look on their faces, while the latter file into the entrance hall or turn to chat to their friends. But intervals are so much more than just an opportunity to stretch your legs or enjoy a snack.

Chosen well, the point of interruption can enhance your enjoyment of the feature. When watching a whodunnit we debate the likely guilty party, a comedy provides an opportunity to relive the funniest moments, and we discuss the credibility of stunts during an action/adventure film. In short, intervals are an intrinsic element of the overall experience and long may they continue.

Show your support
The picture house my parents took me to all those years ago has long since been knocked down. For the people in my home town this now means a 45-minute drive to their nearest cinema – no comparison to my eight-minute stroll along the Promenade.

So when Covid restrictions ease I’ll be one of the first through the doors of Ciné Theatre Gstaad. It’s important to show our support to keep this wonderful facility on our doorstep, intervals and all. Maybe I’ll see you there?

ANNA CHARLES

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