Memories of the Enfield Cannon, Southbury Road….

12 seconds and it’s 1989 all over again…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iNCiufQMvk

Now, that logo and its music might bring back horrid memories of countless appalling films that Cannon as a film studio produced back in the 1980’s, the kind of trash that starred Chuck Norris or Michael Dudikoff (check out imdb to see who he is); Cannon are out of business now, which I suppose is some kind of justice, since I can’t remember them being responsible for a single good film ever, barring 1985’s awesome Runaway Train, and if you’re feeling generous in a guilty pleasure way, 1987’s hilariously silly Masters of the Universe. Yet that link above sends me way back, because Cannon for me wasn’t about Cannon Films, it was about Cannon Cinemas, and that meant lots of fantastic films. There was something about the music and the visuals of this logo which got me quivering with anticipation for the upcoming film, yet for a cinema logo, it’s almost sinister in an Equaliser opening sequence kind of way (any old excuse for this link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uB1NiNKwueE – actually, there’s not much similarity, but it’s the best bit of music Stewart Copeland ever was involved with, and that includes The Police – no Sting this time round, innit? Everybody wins!)

Anyway, back to the real world, my sister would take me to the Enfield Cannon cinema in Southbury Road many, many times back in the late eighties and early nineties, and it’s these early visits which pretty much set the standard for all cinema trips from then on.

I must take this opportunity to apologise to my sister for having to watch many films which were most likely my selection and not hers; I don’t remember being bossy about it all, but at the same time I don’t recall ever being dragged to a film I didn’t want to go to. Saying that, I’m genuinely sure she enjoyed the likes of Ghostbusters II, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Witches…..Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles maybe less so. I vaguely remember she suggested we watch Joe Dante’s utterly brilliant 1987 adventure Innerspace but I turned it down because the poster claimed the film was made by the director of Gremlins, as such (because I was a total wimp), I was scared the film might be frightening! This remains the worst decision I have ever made regarding what film to see, ever. And this is from the boy who would become the same man who paid to see Pearl Harbor, which is still the worst film ever made.

The Enfield Cannon had four screens, with Screen 1 being the biggest and 4 being the smallest. The big new film of the weekend would start of in Screen 1, and would gradually move down a screen as the weeks progressed. For an idea of the capacity of the screens, check out this link, which in the comments section includes a link to the cinema during a not-very-good-week in 1994 – http://cinematreasures.org/theater/15188/

Screen 2 seemed to be the most visited of the four screens for me and my sister; amazingly, sometimes I wouldn’t have heard of a film until the day it had actually come out, and I guess I wasn’t one for successfully twisting my sister’s arm for short-notice trips to the movies. That meant waiting a week before getting to see the film, usually by which time it had been relegated to Screen 2. I guess if I’d known about stuff like future release dates, I could have got on my sister’s case in advance so as to ensure a Screen 1 visit.

As for what the place looked like itself, well, the photo linked earlier gives a good impression of the exterior, with posters for currently screening films displayed outside (the 1980’s seemed to be the last decade for genuinely great film posters too), and as you walked into the foyer, there were more posters up above and behind you, just over the main entrance/exit doors. This is when I’d get my first sight of films that were coming soon – the only poster I remember seeing up there was the one for 1987’s vampire horror Near Dark, which burned into my retinas thanks to its striking artwork, though since the Cannon was only a 4-screen site, and Near Dark was a relatively small film, would the cinema have actually shown this? Maybe my nostalgia is playing tricks on me!

The interior of the foyer seemed dark, bathed in burgundy, which seems weird in this day and age of brightly lit shopping-mall cinemas. Back then, there was less sensory overload, no TV screenings playing trailers, not as many people and certainly no bloomin’ arcade consoles! Instead, we had the main counter, split up into two halves, the left for popcorn and drinks, the right for cinema tickets. The tickets were distinctly shabby, just a pink/fuschia ticket which would be ripped in half by the attendant at the screen doors (I remember when UCI introduced their cinema tickets back in the nineties; it actually had the name of the film you were seeing printed on it- the future is now!).

Screen 1 was upstairs, Screen 2 further to the left and tucked around the corner at the back of the building, Screen 3 immediately to the left and Screen 4 tucked away to the right. Please remember, I’m only working with memory here, and some of these descriptions may be wrong, but it’s the way I remember them! I remember the corridor leading down to Screen 2 to be eerily (some would say tackily) bathed in red light; was this true, or am I getting this confused with the time I saw Ghostbusters II, got freaked out by the scene where the possessed painter with the torchlight eyes walks down the similarly scarlet hued corridor in Sigourney Weaver’s apartment block, and then left for a trip to the loo, which would have meant walking down the corridor? Can’t be sure.

Cinema adverts are a blur; I remember Kia-Ora and Butterkist, but that’s about it; here and there that Cannon Cinemas logo would play, including the one used just before the lights would go up a little (but not all the way) and you’d have to wait for what seemed like an eternity for the film to start. Back then, I had no idea why we had to wait so long. I guess it had to do with changing the aspect ratio of the screen to fit in the widescreen image of the film, which must have taken far longer to do then than it does now. Or maybe they just liked to yank our chains.

Then, the film would start, and the rest is history. I saw plenty of films during this time – whenever people ask me what was the first film I saw in the cinema, I go for Bambi (a re-release, obviously) as I have the cloudiest possible memories of being taken to see it when I was young. Then it was something like Flight of the Navigator back in 1986/1987, though I struggle to comprehend how I would have understood the relatively complex story as a six year old. The next few years were far more prolific, from the good at the time/bloody awful now (Teen Wolf Too – what were we thinking?) to the genuinely great (Last Crusade, Roger Rabbit, Ghostbusters II, Back to the Future Parts II and III) and the one oddity like forgotten Australian comedy Young Einstein from 1989, starring Yahoo Serious (still the best name of the 1980’s); my sister would take great pleasure in embarrassing me in public by quoting the legendary “WHO’S THIS BARBARIAN?”/”I’m a Tasmanian!” dialogue exchange at full volume in Enfield Town. Shudder. I remember being too young to see Batman back in 1989, it being the first ‘12’ rated film, though I managed to see similarly rated Batman Returns three years later, despite being still 11. I wanted to see such cinematic gems as Transformers: the Movie and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, but missing out. I collected the free toys with Kellogg’s cereal packets for the 1988 fantasy Willow without ever managing to see it at the cinema (dodged a bullet there, it must be said), the ‘Ghost in a Can’ promotion for Ghostbusters II at Wimpy (R.I.P), it was during the screening of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991 that I realised I’d be needing glasses when I had trouble reading the opening text after the credits….the list is endless, and I fear I’m already becoming self-indulgent with all this nostalgic chatter.

I’ll attempt to get back on track by saying that films really were something special back then for me. We had no VHS player in our house, only a Betamax (which couldn’t tune in ITV, so that meant I couldn’t tape Ghostbusters). I’d be able to rent a VHS whenever I’d stay at my aunt and uncle’s, but that was only now and then, and to be honest, I’d rent cartoons rather than films, so actually seeing a film was quite the treat, and I think that’s something that’s definitely taken for granted by yours truly these days, what with the accessibility of films greater than ever. Also, I was a lot more easy-going with films back then; I don’t recall hating one single film at the cinema during my childhood. Funnily enough, considering every other film visit these days has been ruined by idiot chatterboxes unable to switch their mobile phones off, I have difficulty remembering loud voices ruining my enjoyment of films back in the Cannon days. True, there was an instance of popcorn throwing during the screening of Casper (I know, I know, I was bored) back in 1995, but that’s about it.

Obviously, nostalgia is a major, major factor in this post; I’m sure that if I could travel back in time and visit the Cannon with 28 year old eyes as opposed to those of a 10 year old, my opinions would be different. We’ll never know now though, as the Cannon has been gone for just over twelve years and is now a Tesco (one of two to be found in the same road).

1994 saw the opening of the first Multiplex cinema I ever visited; the UCI in Edmonton seemed so state of the art back then that it really did leave the Cannon cowering in the corner, though in retrospect, it lacked the charm and personality of the old Cannon, which resorted to its previous branding of ABC towards the end of its life, before shutting down forever in 1997. Since the UCI felt totally shut off from the rest of the world back then (it was next to leisure centre and a pizza restaurant and that’s it), I concentrated my cinema visits in London’s West End, making the most of the time when I was still young enough to apply for a child’s ticket. The Enfield Cineworld opened in 2000, with even more screens than the UCI (not to mention a closer location to my house) but even less personality, and there’s been some frustrating times spent at that venue, to the point where I’ve handed back my Unlimited season ticket and vowed never to visit the place ever again. But that’s another story.

EDIT: As of 2015, I have since renewed my Unlimited card and been to the Enfield Cineworld an outrageous amount of times. There’s still frustration to be had there, but until mobile phones are destroyed on sight and the mouths of chatterboxes sealed shut with industrial strength tape, there always will be. 🙂

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