THERE was a time when each city had a multitude of cinema houses, giving a wide choice of films. Cinemas dwindled, so did choice, but then along came the multiplex and multiple film options.
Cinemas have since spread their wings beyond film, some embracing live comedy and music, exhibitions and spoken-word events, and more and more joining the live screening programme that began with satellite broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera from New York and the NT Live programme of National Theatre shows from London.
These screenings have expanded rapidly to prestigious gallery and museum exhibition openings, film premiere red-carpet events and rock documentary and concert film launches.
You can argue over the merits of theatre and opera as a cinema experience, where the camera leads your eye, unlike at a live performance, but the close-up is a welcome addition to the viewing experience and the chance to see a production that would otherwise require long hours of travel is a pragmatic innovation too.
An even wider range of satellite screenings will surely follow, and certainly more cinemas will embrace it. Here in York, City Screen was one of the first film houses in Britain to recognise the new audiences that could be attracted, and this year Vue York at Clifton Moor has launched its Live Screenings and Alternate Content Calendar programme.
"We've been been doing these screenings for a couple months and we're very excited about it," says Wes Hall, Vue York's brand ambassador and marketing manager.
"We've got a lot of positive buzz from our audiences from our initial showings, and this month we've had National Theatre Live: Skylight on July 17, Andre Rieu's 2014 Maastricht Concert on July 19, Monty Python Live (Mostly) on July 20 and the Dexys' concert film, Nowhere Is Home, the following evening."
The Dexys film, featuring Brummie soul man Kevin Rowland and his reformed band shorn of their old Midnight Runners moniker, was shown exclusively at Vue Cinemas around the country on Monday night. Early bookers received a special Dexys vinyl single of live versions of two songs from 2012's comeback album, One Day I'm Going To Soar, whose accompanying tour had seen the often contrary, too often absent Rowland resume his place at Britain's top table of concert showmen.
"It's the greatest comeback since in Elvis in '68," said one Dexys' enthusiast. at Monday's premiere, referring to album, live show and now concert film alike. Dexys' soul power can do that to you.
Yours truly had been transfixed by the resurrection of the pugnacious Rowland, Big Jim Paterson, Pete Williams and co on the Sage stage in Gateshead, and that was a theatrical experience as much as a musical one.
The documentary film reveals that last year's week-long run at the Duke of York's in London was even more so, especially Rowland's love spat in song with his vamping muse Madeleine Hyland. You see the details you miss when watching from the floor: Rowland's darkly painted finger nails and the knot halfway down his shoe lace; an unintentional metaphor for his character.
It all whets the appetite for what lies ahead, such as NT Live's A Streetcar Named Desire on September 16 and Billy Elliot The Musical on September 28.