Just back from Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre, where for the princely sum of £3 I got to see Superman in all its cinematic glory. Actually, no I didn’t. I walked out after an hour. The picture was slightly fuzzy and the sound was pumped through a pair of speakers that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an old record player.
I’d set out full of hope, assuming they’d be using the same impressive screening equipment I’d seen there last year, when the BBC premiered its Doctor Who Christmas special. I really wanted the venue to be a kind of BFI-on-Tees, because when I moved to London in 1999, one of my biggest thrills was to become a National Film Theatre regular. From the minute I saw Carry On Screaming! on the South Bank, I fell in love with the British Film Institute’s programmers.
If the Town Hall Theatre’s audiovisuals had been up to scratch, I wouldn’t have minded that there were only six of us in the audience. ‘Good for you, Hartlepool Council,’ I’d have thought. ‘Let’s see if you can foster an interest in classic cinema.’ In the event, I left after the mugging scene, knowing that I could watch the DVD (I own the box set) on the fold-out projector screen in my living room. It’ll be better quality, believe me.
Superman made a huge impression on me when I saw it as a child 40 years ago. That scene I just mentioned, in which Clark Kent and Lois Lane are mugged while walking down the street in Metropolis, convinced me for years afterwards that its real-life counterpart, New York, was super-dangerous. Today, of course, London has a higher murder rate and a reputation for acid attacks. (Terrorism too, but we had that in the seventies with the IRA.)
Soon, I’ll be going to London for a day to attend the Orwell Society’s annual general meeting. I’m not remotely worried – there’s not much danger in visiting the British Library and then moving onto a literary gathering – but I’m relieved I don’t have to live in the city any more.