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     Volume 6 Issue 28 | July 20, 2007 |

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Straight Talk

The Electric Cinema

Talking hats, witches, owls, magic, etc. --- you would be perfectly correct in your assumption that I am referring to none other than Harry Potter. Since J.K. Rowling's inception of the Harry Potter books, not just children but millions of adults around the world have found their imagination captured by the trials and tribulations of the famous boy wizard. My children and I were no exception. So it was with great excitement that we accepted the invitation by my husband's office to go and watch the latest film, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' at a private screening.

Little did we realise that having three children would mean that we would eventually become an authority on children's films --- whether it is Beauty and the Beast, Shrek 3, Night at the Museum, Spiderman or anything that has a rating suitable for children, let's just say in the last 14 years, 'we've been there and done that'! In fact we now have quite a comfortable routine where we know who is getting the salted popcorn and who is getting the sweet one, or where we sit in the cinema hall or even who sits next to whom. But our recent trip to the Electric Cinema, where the private screening of Harry Potter was being shown was a totally new cinematic experience!

We were greeted at the door by the organisers of the evening and a talking hat. Yes, you heard correctly, I did say talking hat. As you can imagine our youngest daughter was intrigued by this sight. But this was just the beginning of a very entertaining evening. As we walked through the double doors to the actual cinema, we bumped into colleagues of my husband with their families in tow. What caught my eye immediately was that the chairs were not the typical seats you find in cinema halls; instead all the chairs were red leather armchairs. No sooner had we walked into the auditorium then waiters appeared with drinks. The children were served some fruit juice concoction with jellied worms at the bottom of the drinks. Rather than being off putting, they seemed more than happy to try and drink as much of the juice as necessary to then fish out these colourful little edible treats and I could see most of the other children there doing exactly the same thing. We on the other hand went for the safer option of a soft drink (minus the creepy crawlies). My husband pointed out the fantastic lamps dotted around the room that actually managed to look like floating candles. Obviously much time and effort had gone into organising the evening and I could hear exclamations of, “wow” and “cool” every few minutes.

On the one hand we had golden satyrs bounding up and down the aisles, or lounging on the stage chatting to the teenagers, and on the other a magician keeping the younger children entertained with his tricks and keeping them guessing as to how he was pouring juice into a newspaper and then pouring it back into the glass without the paper turning into mulch! He did some incantations and lo and behold his wand was levitating --- and to his satisfaction, his efforts were not wasted as the kids sitting in front of him watched him with rapt attention and were truly spellbound (pun intended!).

The fact that the invitation was at half past six meant that we had to leave the house before dinner and it was a relief to see waiters and waitresses sashaying around the room with trays of mouth watering hors d'oeuvres. These little appetisers ranged from mushroom tarts, smoked salmon blinis to lamb kebabs on skewers. While we were happily munching away, we suddenly heard a flutter of wings and a bird swooped over our heads causing most of us to gasp out loud (very theatrical). It turned out to be a huge owl. The lady holding the owl was dressed as a witch, flowing gown, hat and all. As we were curious to see the owl up close and personal, we went up to her and her feathered friend to get a better glimpse. I had never really thought about owls before, I guess there had never been any pressing need to dwell on things such as how big can they get or how dangerous they are etc. But let me tell you the bird sitting on her arm was massive and when my daughter asked if she could stroke it, the lady said, “Oh no, I wouldn't do that if I were you, she might think your finger is food and bite your hand”! I have never seen hands dive into pockets as quickly as my daughter's at that point. As I looked at the owl it seemed to look back at me unblinkingly and its eyes were enormous. We were informed that an owl's eyes are large in order to improve their efficiency, especially under low light conditions and that they cannot "roll" or move its eyes, in fact it can only look straight ahead! Owls more than make up for this by being able to turn its head around, and almost upside-down. This allows the owl to turn its head through a range of 270 degrees measured from a forward facing position. While we were there we even got a display of the “Exorcist” rotating head! I told you this was a very different cinema going experience. When have you ever been to the cinema and had a crash course on owls?

As the lights dimmed and we took our seats on the extremely comfortable armchairs, we found a bottle of water, a bag of sweets and a little tub of popcorn on the tables next to our chairs. Did these people think of everything? No, this is not a rhetoric question and yes they did seem to think of everything as we were then given a choice of fish and chips, risotto and sausages and mashed potatoes as our main course! Soon the film started and everybody was silent, except for the noisy eaters who were obviously not so silent but that's beside the point. Some people had taken their shoes off and made themselves comfortable and I was thinking to myself that as the organisers had thought of everything, maybe there was a foot massage next on the menu! Sadly, I was to be disappointed on that front and had to satisfy myself with the fact that the film was better than I had been expecting and kept us engrossed for the duration.

While the credits were rolling, an announcement was made that we should make our way upstairs to the private rooms as there were more drinks and dessert. For the children (and adults) they had set up a Wii console for a bit of post Harry Potter entertainment. I think that by this stage, we were all well fed and thoroughly entertained and the thought of getting home to bed was incentive enough for us to call it a night and head home. The last thing that went through my mind before I succumbed to the call of the sandman was that I could definitely get used to this kind of cinema going experience, yes, I really could...and a foot massage wasn't really asking for that much...


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