Saturday Night at the Movies

(Start: 21st September, 2020)
(Finish: 18th October, 2020)


I’ve got the word ‘Saturday,’ in the title of this piece: with a certain amount of irony.

Given I started this piece on a Monday.

A Monday that has been … not busy, per se.

But a day where I’ve had a meeting: at Brentwood Job Centre.

If you’ve been reading my posts for PhoenixFM, and on Nik Nak’s Old Peculiar, my blog, you’ll realise that I’m jobhunting.

And like every else jobhunting under lockdown? I have to attend meetings with my work coach*: by phone.

The fact my local mobile phone signal is still down, doesn’t help: that fact I have a landline does.

When I started this piece, O2 have stated me they’ll be updating us on Monday, 5th October.

They’ve since told me they’ll update us on the 2nd November.

And the Yellow Advertiser’s published a piece on the continuing discussions between phone operators and the Council.

At the rate the building work’s going, and given the spat between the two groups?

I’ll bet the date will be moved, again!

At any rate … ?

I had a physical meeting with my work coach: suitably socially distanced, with masks, plastic screens and sanitisers.

I’ve missed those face to face meetings and saddened to find that, since I started this article, those physical meetings have been stopped.

And by more phone meetings.

That’s a shame.

The human contact is welcome, as was the chance to complain about a Work Programme I’m on. The Programme’s designed to help us back to work, or into some sort of training … and fund any equipment we need.

The programme wouldn’t help fund a Windows-based laptop.

That’s possibly a post for another time: possibly one updating my Information Poverty piece, in July.


That’s not quite what I was wanted to talk about.

Something you’ll have noticed, from my initial pieces?

Is that, when I open up a word processor† and start writing, I’ve usually got an album on.

Mostly one that’s totally irrelevant to what I want to tell you about.

Tonight’s is vaguely relevant.

Right at the moment, I’m listening to the soundtrack from the 1976 horror film, The Omen: composed by Jerry Goldsmith‡.

Quite frankly?

The theme tune, the Ave Satani, is possibly one of the scariest bits of film music ever written.

The big word, there, is film.

I’m not a film fan.

But, like most of us, I enjoy watching films.

In a cinema, for preference.

I’m a man with a — ha! — vaguely functioning memory, who remembers seeing films in Brentwood High Street.

Given the choice?

I would love to watch more movies, in a cinema, in Brentwood High Street.

That’s what I wanted to talk about.

This town needs a cinema.

Building one has given us problems


I’ll be blunt, if I may?

I’m in my early fifties: at the point where our brains are like our bodies.

They need a certain amount of help to stay in shape: there’s a certain amount of drooping going on.

In my case?

Blogging helps. Acting, as an online diary: and a reminder of things done.

I’m grateful it’s there.

My memory isn’t exactly reliable: so searching my blog, to see what I’ve done? Or written? Or complained about?

I wanted to talk about Brentwood’s non-existent cinema, and looking thing up in a diary, online or otherwise?

Just to supplement my ageing memory?

Is helpful.

Let me give you a little potted personal history, if I may?


My family moved into Brentwood, many years ago: in 1971.

Or possibly ’72.

Back when Brentwood was a lot smaller than it is now: and when the High Street was rather different.

Sainsbury’s, from what I recall? Was in what’s now Boots.

Marks and Spencers was Woolworths.

The Chariot — remember the Chariot, anyone? — was in what’s now O’Neill’s … I think!

At that end of the High Street, anyway.

What’s now Dorothy Perkins was WHSmith’s^.

Prezzo’s was in what was The Mandarin: Brentwood’s only Chinese restaurantª

I think the Slug and Lettuce was a DIY centre.

What we now call the Bay Tree Centre?

Was then Chapel High: complete with a very big department store reaching from the branch of Natwest at the front, all the way to the now closed CeX at the back of that part of the building.

Brentwood’s only cinema … ? Is what’s now Sports Direct.

When my family moved to Brentwood, it was the only one in town: a one screen cinema with a bowl shaped chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. I’ve a dim memory of seeing Disney’s Mary Poppins there: alongside memories of the chandelier dimming, before the film started.

That one screen theatre?


At some point in the 1970s, it became a two screen cinema.

Many of us will remember seeing Star Wars there.

I know I do: the queue went from the front door of the cinema, to the High Street.

Quite some distance!

I saw a few movies, again, in Brentwood High Street.

2001: A Space Odyssey got released, post-Star Wars. The Exorcist: once the ban got lifted. Prospero’s Book, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Universal Soldierº …

The list goes on …

My point is that we had a viable cinema: until Lakeside, and its multiscreen venues, opened in 1988.

Brentwood’s two screener couldn’t take the pace: especially when various government legislation meant the asbestos in the building had to be removed.

The cinema shut.

For good.

Leaving those of us who couldn’t drive the choice — or extra expense — of getting a train to somewhere with a cinema.

Or joining a video rental store, and later, subscribing to Netflix.

Or outright video piracy.

Or no movies at all.


More History

This is where memory … starts to get hazy.

Because I’m going to have to rely on various bits and bobs from the blog: to remind myself of what’s happened since the closure of Brentwood Cinema.

Hopefully? I’ll make sense: but I’m aware I’ll’ve missed something.

For many years, now, I’ve felt a cinema in town would be a good thing.

My admittedly hopeless dating history relied on it: Brentwood cinema’s was a cheap night out.

A cinema in town was handy, if you could pay for tickets and snacks … but not a taxi.

It was cheaper to getting to than one in Lakeside, Romford or Basildon.

Talk about a cinema in town?

Was even cheaper.

I can remember talk starting about possibly rebuilding a cinema in town started: at some point in the late nineties/early 2000s.

It was exactly that: talk, and very cheap talk, at that.

The talk continued: up to and including when I moved into Rollason Way.

To the point I got interviewed by the Gazette about it.

I’d written a letter or two in support of a cinema in town, and that had been approved in William Hunter Way: where Sainsbury’s is.

Others, including Councillor Phil Mynott: and and people on his area, didn’t like the idea of having a cinema on their doorstep. Understandable, if you didn’t like the idea of noise on your doorstep.

The plans went right to the wire: and, as the relevant Central Government committee had decided not to review those plans?

It meant, in theory, that Brentwood should get a cinema any day soon.

That was in 2009.

It got cancelled in 2014.

With the last post I wrote on the subject … ? Being in November of the same year.

I’d written to several cinema chains — with no reply — to see what size venue they they felt would they would like to see in a town the size of Brentwood.

I never heard back.

Which is possibly understandable: cinema chains are busy.

But also disappointing.

It meant I had to draw my own conclusions: that big cinema chains weren’t interested in a venue in town.

There was — as I recall — talk of an independent chain, setting up shop in town.

With nothing concrete being done.

Since 2014, then?

Talk about a cinema has been intermittent since 2014.

So I’ve made my own arrangements.


Ideas and Conclusions.

So … what have I been doing to watch films?

What does Brentwood need?

How has Covid affected things?

That’s a mix of questions, answers, issues, and lord knows what else, there.

On a personal front?

The few times I’ve seen a film at the cinema, it’s been through the kindness of my family: treating their older brother to a movie ticket on birthdays and at Christmas.

As I recall, the last one I saw, was Shazam: in Basildon.

I’ve had access to Netflix, rented from iTunes, bought DVDs and blu-rays, and occasionally resorted to new fangled piracy¹.

I’ve not bought a Kodi² box: although some of my neighbours have. I get the impression they’re good … but need updating, once the freebies run out.

My point?

Is that most of the films I’ve seen over the past fifteen years have been at home: whether I’ve watched a DVD, rented from iTunes, Blockbusters, subscribed to Netflix or accessed outright pirates.

Every one else I known in Brentwood?

Have been the same.

They’ll happily watch a film at home: pirate or otherwise.

Or at the occasional events at Brentwood Theatre.

But like watching films at a real cinema.

It’s an event, it’s a chance to meet others and a chance to get out of the house.

The only things hindering it?

The cost of travel.

And, at the moment? COVID 19.

With the next James Bond film, No Time to Die, Dune, The Batman and others, being postponed?

Out of town cinemas are either closing, or shifting to short hours.

There’s less films to see, at less cinemas.

Right at the moment … ?

Right at the moment I see no chance a cinema in my town.

Which is a shame, as I honestly believe a cinema in Brentwood would be a benefit to its people.

It would provide both jobs, and entertainment. Potentially raise house prices for those living nearby.

Yes: I know noise is a factor: I worked in pubs next to houses for many years, after all. Every change to the Essex Arms music license had people speaking for or against.

Yes, those like Councillor Mynott, who complained about having a cinema built next door would have noise.

But also have a cinema on their doorstep.

At any rate, I’ll repeat my point.

I believe Brentwood would benefit from having a cinema.

It would provide jobs for those of us that need it.

It would provide entertainment for all of us: assuming it’s has a good range of ticket prices, and cheap popcorn.

It could be a civilised alternative to the Sugar Hut: and bring people into town.

It would need to be socially distanced: but could easily provide a socially distance morale boost at a time when it’s sorely needed.

It could even — arguably — be greener than going to Romford or Basildon to see a film: given the transport involved.

The only things slowing it down at the moment?

Are Brentwood Council: who’ve delayed it for years.

And COVID-19.

I suspect Covid will be done with, and I in my grave, before Brentwood Council approves a cinema in Brentwood.

*        The work coaches are the Job Centre’s frontline staff. They’re the case workers who deal with you, me and anyone else in Brentwood who’s claiming benefits and hunting for work.

†        I use a lightweight word processor called TextEdit: one that’s shipped with every Mac ever made for the past twenty years. Yes, I know what you’re going to ask: “Why do you need a PC, when you’ve got a Mac?” You’ve got a point: under my current circumstances, I don’t. But every home working job I’ve applied for insists I use a Windows machine. As did the training course I’d applied for.

‡        The man was a competent composer: writing some of the film scores. The one he did for The Omen won him his only Oscar. The remake of The Omen is the better film … but its soundtrack was a pathetic imitation of the original, and Mia Farrow not a patch on Billie Whitelaw.

^        My family bought me my first computer in there: a 48kb ZX Spectrum.

ª I loved it: I always had chicken and chips. I would only have been a few years old. It was special: it was Chinese chicken and chips. Roast chicken, with chips … served by a Chinese waiter who’d probably worked out he had a fussy eater on his hands, the minute one walked in the door!

º        As I recall? Universal Soldier really wasn’t worth the money!

¹        That’s easier the you think, if you have a laptop. Download and install TorBrowser. Download and install a BitTorrent app. Use Tor to visit a torrent tracking site. Pick a movie. Download the torrent file, or magnetic link, and open it with your BitTorrent app: here’s how.
The software is like blank cassettes, or DVDs. Owning it is legal, as legally available material is on offer.
However? Downloading films, TV shows and cracked software this way is illegal: it’s copyright theft, at the very least. It also leaves your machine vulnerable to sabotaged and malicious software. It’s legally and technically dangerous. Do so at your own risk.

²        A Kodi box is a budget equivalent to things like a Chromecast, FireTV or AppleTV. It’s a media playing box that lets you access internet services like YouTube, Netflix/iPlayer, what have you, and things on your computer. The ‘fully loaded’ Kodi boxes are Kodi³ boxes set up to let you watch paid-for services for free. I’ve never used one, myself. I’m told that the ‘free’ — pirate — services run out, after about a year or so. But they are out there, somewhere.

³        Like Tor, and BitTorrent apps, Kodi itself is perfectly legal. It’s the third party plug ins that let you watch things for free that are dodgy.

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