The usherette will show you to your seat…
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Multiplexes are all well and good, but they’re like fishfingers for the kids – the easy option you secretly regret afterwards. You know you’ll get a wide seat and booming sound, but you’ll also get crushed popcorn stuck to your shoes and pick n mix that costs you a fiver (a bloody FIVER!!!!). It’s not that I’m an art-house fanatic – a film doesn’t have to be an Iranian tragi-comedy to get me buying a ticket – but given the choice I prefer the variety and the ‘local’ feeling that small, independent cinemas give.
So hurray for The Corn Exchange in Wallingford where I recently saw The Kids Are Alright, a lovely film about what happens when the children of a lesbian couple seek out their donor dad. It’s a sweet and pristine cinema/theatre, seating a tiny 175, staffed entirely on the night I visited by cheery volunteers pushing 60, with a downstairs cafe/bar selling hot drinks, alcohol, snacks, even soup and a roll if you want.
Making a cinema experience enjoyable isn’t rocket science, but the Corn Exchange has had a good crack at getting the formula right anyway. The theatre has surround sound, seats are comfy in a mid-range multiplex kind of way, and the toilets are immaculate (oh come on, you wanted to know if the Ladies’ had loo paper didn’t you?!). Best of all is the usherette, waiting with her little torch to take you to your seat, even though it’s only 14 stairs from top to bottom.
All in all, there’s something really heart-warming and a bit old-fashioned about The Corn Exchange. You’re not going to feel hip coming here, as you perhaps would at the more studenty Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford or the art deco Rex in Berkamsted, but you’ll get your movie fix in the elegant surroundings of Wallingford, with its Georgian red brick and independent shops. As the nights get lighter, it’s worth trying to tie in a pub/restaurant before or after the show, so I’ll keep my peepers out for some good options and report back.