In Conversation: Ross Wignall, 2010

Interviewee: Ross Wignall

Date:of Interview  26 July 2010.

Ross was born in 1979 and first moved to Brighton in 2006.Cinema going is a very important aspect to Ross’ life.Ross tends to go to the cinema every year on his birthday – often on his own. His taste in films means that he will often go to the cinema on his own, treating himself to a bag of Minstrels. However, he enjoys viewing other films with a group of friends.He first became aware of the Duke of York’s when he visited friends in Brighton in 2003-4. He can’t remember what he saw but he does remember the legs and being amazed by the building, the period detail, and the range of films on show.The Duke of York’s was one of the deciding factors in his move to Brighton from London.He describes the London Road area and Preston Circus as it is today. When he first moved to Brighton one of his regular ‘events’ would be to charity shop in the area and then watch a film at the Duke of York’s.

Ross: I was surprised by how small the lobby was and how they fit so many people in there, it was pretty amazing. But at the same time, I liked the feeling of going through those doors, it was like stepping back in time, going to sort of a ballroom or something. And everything’s kind of, you know, it’s small, everything’s compact, you can see everything, you can see the kind of, the popcorn up in front of you as you walk in, and it’s a place that’s just got movie posters everywhere, so it’s just like, and I love that, I love that feeling of seeing films from all different eras, it sort of shows the history of the place, it makes people like me, you know, you wanna kind of get involved because that’s your, that’s your history as well, you know, that’s your, kind of, past right there. It had that kind of emotional effect I suppose. And then when you go to the actual auditorium, it’s a pretty special place actually, it’s unlike any other cinema and I’ve been to a lot of cinemas in the UK, a lot of little different ones, I like to kind of go there, but it’s got a kind of special vibe because it’s got such a high vaulted ceiling. The way the seats are laid out, and the kind of Art Deco frame of the screen. And it’s a bit like you’d see movies about movies in the past, obviously I haven’t been to the cinema, but, kind of old Woody Allen films or something where they go to the movies and see like it’s exactly the same, so there’s kind of nice things like that.

Vaska: And can you describe what kind of seats there are? You said that the seating is interesting, kind of the arrangement, in what way?

Ross: Yeah. The way its kind of angled to the screen. So you come in and it’s almost like a slope, it’s almost like a, as you walk in because of the slope, you can see the whole thing, so like literally you can stand in the corner of the Duke of York’s and you can see everyone in there, which is quite unusual in any auditorium, really. Plus you’ve got the balcony behind you so you see those people, which I’ve never been in myself, but, they, you can see, it’s almost like the royal box which is quite nice!

Vaska: Is there a reason you haven’t been up on the balcony?

Ross: No, not really, cos, yeah, I mean there is, because I really like the auditorium, I like being in the mix. I like being… A lot of people when they go to, kind of, art house cinemas they don’t like being at the front, they like to be at the back and sort of, you know, cry into a tissue, but I like the experience of being five rows from the front, that’s my thing.

Vaska: So you’re very specific then?!

Ross: I’m very specific, yeah, I’m about five rows from the front, try and get in the middle if I can.

Ross has sat at the front row of the Duke of York’s and describes it as perfect – you can see the whole screen and are not at risk of a sore neck! He describes the seats as very comfortable – he likes to have a good ‘slump’ down into a Duke of York’s seat!Ross tends to book his tickets so he doesn’t have to queue. He believes the best thing about the cinema is you can get your tickets from the food counter. He likes to go to the café bar upstairs to get a hot chocolate or coffee. Generally he would bring the drink down into the auditorium.Ross became a member of the cinema about 2 ½ years ago and describes the benefits – three free tickets, discounted tickets and refreshments both within the cinema and in some establishments around the city. He says that he has never seen his Dad so happy as when he got a 25% discount at Gourmet Burger Kitchen!Ross thinks that the Duke of York’s is the best value for money in virtually any cinema he has ever been in.Generally he will book his ticket online or, on occasion, by telephone.He likes to plan his cinema trips and finds that, for example, if he knows he is going to the cinema on a Saturday, it will make the whole day worth while.

Ross: It’s almost like, it’s almost like going home, you know, that kind of feeling. It’s like you know it so well, there’s no surprises, you feel safe, you know what you’re gonna get. You know that even if, even if there’s a bad film, you’re gonna have a good time, which is a bit like your family I suppose. You know, even if you have a bad meal together it will be a good time on some level. I have a lot of memories there, you know, a lot of … I mean, cinema in general is kind of, almost like a safe haven for me, a kind of sanctuary from day to day reality, you know in so many ways just from, like, escapism of the film to being in the kind of safe, cosy environment where you feel, you feel like the whole world’s been shut out. So in times of emotional distress I tend to head to the cinema.

Ross: To me, your whole consciousness changes in the cinema, the whole focus of your mind changes when you’re in that darkness, it’s almost like a form of meditation, and then, you kind of, you’re, the images are kind of painted onto your mind in a different way.

For Ross, a film is intensified when viewing it in the cinema.Ross, remembers with hilarity Ang Lee’s ‘Lust Caution’ and the awkwardness of the film and intensity of the graphic scenes. On the big screen, he says, there is no hiding place!He believes that those who go to the Duke of York’s appreciate film and film-making. He feels that a cinema can really affect the experience and response to a film.Ross thinks that there is a certain demographic that frequent the Duke of York’s – those between 25 and 45.Ross likes the programme brochure – describing it as well-produced and thoughtfully put together. The adverts also highlight their connection to the community.He hasn’t noticed any changes in the actual programming, rather that the world of cinema has changed with art house films becoming more mainstream. He describes some of the cross-over films and how they have influenced his taste in film.

Ross: The thing about the Duke of York’s is, blink and you miss some films, you know.

He feels that they cater for all members of the population.He describes frustration at missing some films, however he notes that the fast turn-around of films can motivate him to watch a film quickly.Generally, Ross will go to the cinema every couple of weeks, and the Duke’s once a month.

Ross: People fall in love with the Duke of York’s, in a way they don’t with normal cinemas, you know, it’s got that special character, that, once you’ve been there once, you kind of, it’s kind of addictive, you want to go again. And some people, some people would even say to me, like, ‘let’s go to the Duke of York’s’, now I don’t see people, people don’t often say ‘let’s go to the cinema’, they say ‘let’s go and see this film’, they don’t say ‘let’s go to this cinema over here just to see what’s on’. They say ‘yeah, let’s go and see this film or whatever’, so, yeah people with the Duke’s they’ll often go ‘do you fancy going to the Duke’s?’. Which is pretty amazing really, if you think about it. Quite a nice, yeah, I think people definitely have made friends around the Duke of York’s. Cos I think it also, is almost like identifying yourself as well, it’s like saying ‘I like films’ or ‘I like film in general and not just mainstream cinema’. It’s almost just like saying you’ve got that broad taste.

Vaska: Have you ever met anyone who hasn’t liked the Duke of York’s?

Ross: Have I? That’s a good question. If I have I’ve completely erased them from my memory. I met, but I have met, I’ve met people even in Brighton who have never been there, hardly know about it, and probably wouldn’t consider going there. Lived in Brighton all their life. So, I’m not sure it’s a place you can actively dislike, but…

Vaska: Do you think then that you can predict the kind of person that would go there?

Ross: More often than not, maybe, yeah, yeah. We don’t get a lot of Sun readers in there. I know a few Sun readers, I work with a few Sun readers, pretty sure none of them go to the Duke of York’s.

Ross recounts some particular film memories and the differing reactions to ‘The Road’ that he and his friend displayed.

Ross tends not to read the reviews of films he plans on seeing.

Film violence doesn’t affect him, film horror can sometimes haunt him, but emotional films are, for Ross, far more affecting.

Ross describes watching a film at the Duke of York’s as pure self-indulgence and absorption into a film, whereas watching a dvd invites some disturbance.

He feels that the Duke of York’s is a part of Brighton and Hove’s character and that cinema is part of the city’s history. Cinema going is a part of people’s social networks.

Vaska: And lastly, if you met someone who hadn’t been to the Duke of York’s before, how would you describe it to them?

Ross: How would I describe it? Probably the most singular experience you’ll have in a cinema.

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