At the movies · Catchphrases

“This is where we came in”

Some time ago we tried to explain to our children the derivation of the phrase “This is where we came in”. As I understand it this comes from how people used to go to the cinema before my lifetime, when they didn’t pay too much attention to start and end times. They would buy their tickets, take their seats and if the movie had already started they would try and work out what was going on. When the movie finished they would stay on through the start of the next screening, and when they got to the part of the movie that they had already seen they would say, “This is where we came in”, and leave. It’s an interesting way to experience something. Imagine if you started a book halfway through, read it to the end, then started again at the beginning. When you get to the part that you had read the first time round you’d stop reading.

My father used to tell a joke along these lines, about taking my mother to a football match. Just as they arrived the home team scored a goal. 30 minutes later they scored another, she said, “This is where we came in”, and headed for the exit.

I said it myself recently at the Paul Strand exhibition at the V&A. There’s a screening of his 1921 short documentary “Manhatta” (which I kept reading as “Manhattan”) running on a loop. I started watching just as the commuter ferry was docking, unsure about how long the film was. I watched through to the end, than stayed through the start of its next screening. At 1 minute 40 seconds I was able to say (to myself) “This is where I came in” and carry on to the rest of the exhibition. You can see “Manhatta” for yourself here (it’s just under 10 minutes long).


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