Film fan watches 1,000 movies in coronavirus lockdown

By Steve Mellen
BBC News

  • Published
Film fan Phil Watts at home in Somerset
Image caption,
Phil Watts managed to see 1,028 films in a year

A self-confessed movie fanatic watched more than 1,000 films in a year after losing his job in the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Phil Watts, from Somerset, crammed in 1,028 films after sometimes watching as many as seven in one day.

The son of a former cinema projectionist, he described himself as a "super geek" when it came to cinema.

His marathon year of films involved watching every James Bond, Star Trek and Fast and Furious film.

Mr Watts, who is also known among his film-watching network as "Not George Lucas" was working at woodworking firm Yandles, near Yeovil, when he was furloughed in November 2020 and made redundant the following January.

In the spring of 2021, having been working from home on other projects and having films on in the background, he realised he had watched "an awful lot".

"I have to keep notes or I forget what I've watched," he said.

"I was well into the three to four hundreds in March, and I thought that maybe I could do a thousand in a year."

Image source, Universal Pictures
Image caption,
Mr Watts watched every James Bond film as part of the 1,028 total

On 28 December 2021 Mr Watts, from Haselbury, watched the 1,000th film - Gone With the Wind - which he had never seen before.

"There were some days when because of work or other reasons I didn't watch any, but on other days I could get through a few of the early Universal monster films as they are only about 70 minutes long. So on a good day I could watch about seven.

"Towards the end I was trying to fit lots of films in so it did become a bit laborious, but for me, watching films is a way to unwind.

"Movie buff just doesn't describe it. I'm just one of those people - I usually use the term 'super geek'," he said.

Cinema heritage

Cinema runs in Mr Watts's blood. His father Roger was a projectionist in Plymouth, and since 1992, Phil has been running a business putting home movies on to DVD.

Image source, Phil Watts
Image caption,
Mr Watts's father Roger was also heavily involved in films
Image source, Phil Watts
Image caption,
Mr Watts's parents Roger and Jill with a case of old 8mm film sets

"When I was growing up in the 1970s, one of the first memories I have is of my Dad converting a garage so it had eight little cinema seats which he repurposed from one of the old cinemas in Plymouth, with a little projection room and a fishing line which he would use to open and shut the curtain in front of the screen," he said.

'Form of escape'

Mr Watts said that although watching so many films did sometimes play havoc with his sleep patterns "especially as I would stay up late to watch a good horror", it did not impact on his life too much.

"I always use movies as a form of escape. Some people go for a jog or read a book. For me, a movie is two hours in a faraway galaxy or deep under sea or in a real-life drama," he said.

"Because we were in lockdown, it didn't have a big impact on me socially. I made friends on social media as they had the same tastes."

Image source, Phil Watts
Image caption,
The Watts family used to sell films from their shop in Plymouth

He said his wife was accepting of his movie marathon.

"She was happy in the garden while I was inside, usually with the curtain shut so I didn't get any glare or reflections.

"She would come in sometimes, open them up and I would act like a vampire, pretending the sun burns!

"We have very different taste in movies. We found a few that she would watch with me, but she was happy to leave me to it," he said.

'Bawling my eyes out'

Having spent a year exploring everything from classic films through to 1990s cinema and films released in the cinema in 2021, Mr Watts said the one he would choose to watch if he could only pick one was Cinema Paradiso.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Watts said he was moved to tears watching Cinema Paradiso

The 1988 film about a young Italian boy learning the craft of cinema from a projectionist mirrors his own life, said Mr Watts.

"It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," he said.

"By the end of it I was absolutely bawling my eyes out, but in a good way.

"Growing up in the world of cinema, my dad taught me that if you want to know which side of a cine reel the enamel is on, you put your lips on it as they will stick to it, and that's what the young lad in that film learned from the projectionist."

Mr Watts's passion for film has led to him now becoming a contributor to review website The Last Movie Outpost, interviewing actors and directors and also contributing to weekly discussion shows.

"It's a great hobby, and if it turned into a paid job I would be very happy," he said.

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