Forget teenager's paper round, movie night is now funded by free offer

Torbay Weekly

When I was a teenager, going to the cinema with friends was a favourite pastime.

I suffered for my art, funding this weekly treat with a daily early morning paper round for several years, learning the value of money the hard way and appreciating the significance of every penny as I trudged up and down several of Torquay's seven hills, squeezing the job in before school and first thing on a Saturday morning.

I resisted the allure of Sunday's elevated pay - an extra 50p an hour, tempting proposition indeed - preferring the indolence of the pre-church lie-in even at that tender age.

Come pay-day, as I eyed my tenacious brother pocketing his bolstered pay packet, I may have experienced some small regret.

But my own weekly wage afforded the indulgence of my hobbies, and I was content enough with that.

Saturdays were reserved for friends and fun, initially with swimming and then with the allure of the silver screen once I realised I was not a natural water baby.

Town was chock-full of tantalising treats at that age: stationery shopping with my best friend, when Bastins was the only place to be; the forbidden fruit of fast food restaurants; visiting music shops to flick through the latest albums on tape, vinyl and - eventually - CD.

Few things compared with the thrill of catching the latest blockbuster on the big screen, though, as the ticket stubs that I hoarded for many years attest.

They paint a picture of a carefree youth in the cinema stalls; a happy time, although an expensive one - even with junior prices, the fee was a stretch.

As I grew older, my interests developed and diversified, and, having swapped my paper round for a Saturday job at Boots, I became less frequently content to part with hard-earned cash for an afternoon at the pictures.

When I met my husband, little changed. Although he waxed lyrically about the value-for-money entertainment he had experienced himself from movie theatres in his youth - the double feature films, the charming usherettes with interval ices - he shared my disinclination, and our courting - his favoured description of our pre-marital life - rarely involved watching films.

As our family expanded, so did ticket prices and numbers, rendering us even more reluctant to indulge.

I was therefore intrigued to learn of a recent promotion through the National Lottery: a free pair of adult cinema tickets with every purchase of a lotto ticket or scratchcard.

I decided to invest, purchasing one of each of these and visiting the website to redeem the offer.

My children had recently been singing the praises of a new musical film by the creator of global phenomenon Hamilton and, as luck would have it, 'In the Heights' opened the weekend that the promotion was valid.

A quick search of local theatres identified one that had screenings compatible with the majority of the family, and so it was with hearts full of joyful anticipation and bags full of sweets that we found ourselves cosily cocooned in the dim light of Screen 2 one recent Sunday evening, mesmerised by the scenes playing out in front of us in a feel-good, fiery fiesta of a film whose sheer exuberance, energy, rhythm and humanity held us in its thrall from start to finish.

Our youngest, who had a limited experience of movies on the big screen, was as enchanted as the rest of us, willing to suspend his disbelief from the very first note and hold it aloft for the 143-minute duration.

When the closing musical number came to its magical, euphoric end, I was filled with the spontaneous urge to clap the production as one would in a theatre, so transported had I felt.

I resisted the notion; I was in the company of teens, after all, and wished to remain so - although I could sense from my husband's awestruck reaction that he was experiencing the same exuberance.

With bedazzled eyes we left the building and emerged blinking into the cool night time air with a new spring in our steps.

And we have not been left bereft - Alexa has obligingly played the soundtrack on demand ever since.

As for the lottery tickets I was obliged to acquire, I won £1! I reckon I could be persuaded to put it towards another cinema ticket.