On a recent visit to a Curzon cinema in London I sat (lay, really) on a steeply pitched chair that had been upholstered in red fur. Outside in the lobby, the snacks for sale included prosecco-laced ice lollies and popcorn flavoured with specific French cheeses; I chose a wedge of iced sponge cake that was on display under a cloche. Inside the screening room, I wasn’t the only one clacking tableware while we waited for the feature – Woody Allen’s Café Society – to start.
A pre-film advert played, promoting the Curzon’s app. Audiences were advised that, next time, they could simply stay at home and use their phones to stream selected newly released films direct to their TVs. Café Society had a 1930s setting, a jazz soundtrack, Allen’s usual Windsor font in the credits. But the preamble to it had been powerfully, pungently modern, illustrating the lavishing-up of many cinemas and the spread of home-streaming services, developments that have come to characterise movie‑watching in 2016.
As Allen’s film played I lay on the near-horizontal, watching it down my nose and trying not to fall asleep during the slow bits like an old man in front of the snooker – asking myself how we’d got here. To cinema seats resembling pool loungers. To phones that with the right software could call up hundreds of thousands of feature films. Just under a third of the UK population now streams films and this year sales of digitally streamed or downloaded movies outstripped sales of DVDs for the first time.
Full stream ahead? The brave new world of cinemagoing.