THE beauty of cinema is its power to transport.

If you can let yourself go, just enough, you can be anywhere - places you might want to be and places you certainly don't. Anywhere but real life, though, and that's almost always better.

This escape is unique to the theatre experience: huge screens, plush seats, pitch dark.

It is not anywhere near the same as watching at home in the everyday surroundings of your living room, sitting on your plain couch, with your phone in one hand and friends or family droning on in one ear.

It's impossible to wax too lyrical about the thrill and the magic of the multiplex. Impossible.

READ MORE: Cineworld considering bankruptcy but ‘no significant impact’ on jobs

Despite, of course, the scourge of the cinema - other customers. The marvel of the moving image, to my relentless, life-long dismay, has never been enough to encourage people to just shut up and watch the film.

Folk chatting, taking phone calls, taking selfies, looking at Facebook on an iPad, putting their feet on the back of your seat so you can smell the rubber soles of their trainers, folk eating three course meals... I've seen it all (and confess that the last one was me).

Hell is, in the cinema, other people. During the lockdown I missed the movies terribly. Pre-pandemic I had a Cineworld card and it was some of the best money ever spent. I'd go once during the week and often twice on Saturdays, usually with a couple of cinema buddies but often on my own.

It was at the point that familiarity was breeding contempt. I had seen so many films that it was no longer a treat and more of a routine.

Why not now? Well, I'm a hypocrite.

The week the movies came back to big screen life after they closed due to Covid-19, my friend and I went to see Tenet. I had absolutely no idea what was going; I'm not convinced he did either. It didn't matter. It was glorious to be back in front of a big screen.

We were about the only people in the cinema and so it was perfect, the cinema experience without other people spoiling the show.

But the pandemic changed things for everyone. My Tenet buddy was one of my best cinema chums but he cancelled his card. My other top cinema chum cancelled his card and another cancelled hers. My other cinema buddy set up a film club during the lockdown and we watch a movie twice a week.

It's a time commitment, to fit in other films on top of Quarantine Film Club and... there just hasn't been anything significantly tempting to watch in the cinema. Not compared to the vast array of choice laid out on multiple screening services.

I've become the thing I hate: someone who stays at home to catch a film on Apple TV rather than venturing out of the house to the movies.

Now, because so many friends have cancelled their cards, there's nothing urgently must-see and there's so much choice on my laptop, I hardly go to Cineworld. When I do go, it's brilliant because I'm often the only person in the screen.

The other week my friend and I went to the massive Superscreen and there were not more than 10 of us in there.

Reports of Cineworld's financial struggles have been ongoing for quite some time and so it was of little surprise this week that the world's second largest cinema chain announced that it is looking at liquidation, having run up debt of more than $4.8 billion during the pandemic.

Cinema's demise has been oft-reported. Television was supposed to be a deadly threat but feature films glittered with colour. Illegal downloading prompted 3D movies and then 4DX to tempt people out to the cinema.

Now, when the gap between cinema release and streaming release has narrowed from 70 days to all but simultaneous, how do you persuade people to leave the comfort of their own homes when they've been so used to staying at home.

When I do go out to the movies, it's rarely to Cineworld. Friends - and I appreciate the tiny sample size - prefer other chains. Chains where they keep things simple: a good movie and good snacks in good surroundings.

Films are largely ruined by 4DX. If a picture is not sufficiently engrossing as to stand on its own merit, there's no help for it. Who likes 4DX? You're paying extra to be a assaulted by a chair. I accidentally saw The Batman in 4DX and came out nauseous, wet and bruised, unable to tell you anything about the plot other than that Batman disconcertingly rides off down Duke Street at the end.

It's an epic tragedy, the decline of Cineworld, and it's going to take an almighty plot twist to make it the blockbuster it once was.