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MAD MATT'S

(Screen International - 1989, 90)
One of a regular column about cinema management


The other day we were standing (the usherettes and I) behind the sweet kiosk, looking through the front door of the cinema and watching a twitchy-looking man with a moustache whose date hadn't turned up.

We were thinking that maybe we should make a giant Box Hill Phoenix Dunce's Cap, which would read: YES! YOU HAVE BEEN STOOD UP, THE MANAGEMENT AND STAFF OF THE BOX HILL PHOENIX OFFER YOU THEIR SINCERE REGRETS. And then, whenever this happens, which is - let's face it - every show, we could march out there and crown the poor embarrassed dope. Make them realise that, yes, as they thought, everybody was watching: and yes - what a fool they did look, No, they mostly turn up in the end, don't they? They've been held up on public transport, or their meeting ran a little late, or…

If the waiting party does decide: To hell with it, I'll go in and watch the film anyway and then comes over to leave the ticket at the box office, I love the way they always assume that you'll be able to recognise Cathy or Debbie or Pete or whoever. 'She's large and blonde.' Well thanks! Leaving you with the pleasant task of going up to every large blonde person who may happen to wander in and ask: 'Are you Debbie?' Which can elicit some very strange responses, let me tell you.

We don't just watch the customers, we listen to them too. And I often think it would be useful for a film-maker to come and stand by the door (as the ticket-tearer does) and listen to the remarks they make as they come out. From (of Meryl Streep) 'She is good, yeah, but she always acts like she's watchin' herself, d'you know what I mean?' to (of Maurice: American accent) 'What was that about? Two faggots, at college, I don't geddit.'

The one thing you do learn from watching audiences come and go every day is that there are as many different tastes as there are films. There will always be someone who will rave about any film: there will always be someone who will walk out. By the same token, each film will pull in a completely different flavour of audience: the mainstream-entertainment audience (Nuns On The Run, Pretty Woman), the nostalgic-no- four-letter-words audience (A Room With A View, Driving Miss Daisy), the young and trendy audience (Sex, Lies And Videotape, Sweetie), the gay audience (anything by Adlon, Waters, Almodovar), the Jewish audience (Crossing Delancey), the Japanese/ people-with-Japanese-lovers audience (Dreams), the frustrated middle-aged woman audience (Shirley Valentine), the I-should-have-seen-this-three-years-ago audience (Jean De Florette, Manon Des Sources) - the astonishing thing being that there they all are, hundreds of different individuals, all of whom fit the stereotypes you'd think only existed in cartoons: the trendies with their denims and copies of Time Out, the no-four-letter-words gang in their suits or Times Special Offer tweeds, the greens in their sandals … you wouldn't think so many cliches walked the streets until you've seen the foyer filling up with them.

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