Africa cinema

My daughter loved her first cinema trip, despite spending the entire 2 hours bent double with her feet up next to her ears (my husband had failed to notice the booster seats near the entrance). We would have loved to have gone as a family, but my toddler son’s concentration span is about as long as that of a gnat; it would not have been fair to submit the other cinema-goers to his squirming, fidgeting and eventual sprinting along the aisles. Ila, Bapuji and Ba’s daughter, described her own cinema experiences as a teenager:

“We used to enjoy going to see films as a family at the drive-in cinema nearly every weekend. Initially, the cost of the ticket was 50 shillings per car. This meant that we used to fill the car with as many people as possible- at least 8 people in each car. We would pay the entrance fee at the ticket booth and then, once parked in our spot, would spill out onto the ‘sadri’- woven picnic mats- to watch the film in comfort. We could park anywhere that there was a speaker column, which housed a portable speaker that you carried in through the car window, if you chose not to sit outside. We would arrange to see a particular film with family members or friends, organise party food and have a huge picnic whilst watching the film. This was the highlight of the weekend. We used to have a laugh when it rained and we watched the film with the wipers on. Sometimes the rain was so heavy that the film had to be stopped and we would lose our entrance fee, but that was a risk that we were willing to take. Then the owners must have realised what was happening and gradually changed the price of entry from ’50 shillings per car’ to ’20 shillings per person’.  We could not afford to go as often, and we wanted to do things as a big group, so the cinema trips became far less frequent.”


Drive-in cinemas are, of course, completely impractical in the UK, but what a brilliant idea: entire families could go, and park further from the crowd if they had active or raucous children, and I love the idea of a giant picnic while watching the latest blockbuster. I have a feeling that they were also a great date-night option, being a little more exciting than the local multiplex. Sadly they appear to have gradually faded from public affection, and many have closed, including the one that Ila and her siblings attended every weekend. Drive-in cinemas will have to join old-style typewriters and Tamagotchis on my list of things that should stage a comeback.


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