When the multiplexes landed in the 1970s, squashing out anything smaller than them, the general consensus screamed ‘innovation’ — building cinema cities where the most amount of money can be made in one sitting. The competition presented by the multiplexes ended up putting smaller theatres out of business. Some thirty years later things have changed: these megaplexes are known as extortionate, unattractive and unpleasant giants. Going out with your boyfriend to see the latest blockbuster can now set you back £20, not to mention spending about £6 for a small bucket of popcorn and consider yourself lucky if you’re not sitting on a gum-covered seat.
I used to be ashamed when my dad would whip out his Sainsbury’s bag and pass around our pre-bought chocolates. Now I revel in bringing my pre-packed cinema feast and laugh at the fools queuing up for their overpriced popcorn. The price alone of a night at the pictures has got to the point of putting off the most avid movie lovers as they’d now rather wait for the DVD to come out or stream it online. We are crying out for reform, but what of those previously squashed out small movie theatres? We are all looking for a new movie experience, and these eclectic mix of previously shunned cinemas are coming out of the dark and offering movie lovers a piece of history; in a beguiling, romantic setting and not just conforming to show the latest Hollywood blockbusters.
Independent cinemas are making a comeback: after a summer full of open-air movies madness in London, cinema lovers can expect to enjoy a real cinematic experience with the plethora of small independent cinemas hiding across town. With a cinema on each corner of its street, Leicester Square was named by the Evening Standard ‘the country’s funkiest movie capital.
Once a X-rated movie venue, the Prince Charles Cinema has become one of the most successful independent screens in the country, with a reputation in the Film industry for being quirky and innovative. Built in 1961, the theatre boasts two screens: an antique red auditorium with 285 leather seats, and a new lavish purple screen with 104 executive purple leather seats. On show are movie marathons and old classics, ranging from sing-alongs to a Mean Girls quote-along this December. For the price of £1.50, which couldn’t feed you a pack of peanuts an Odeon, you not only get to watch a movie but enjoy a true cinematic experience as well.
The Coronet in Notting Hill has been, since its opening in 1898, regarded as one of the finest theatres outside the West End. Resurrected in the nighties by being featured in the famous Notting Hill movie starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, the Coronet has a £3.50 Monday student night and a £3.50 Tuesday night movie price for everyone.
Independent cinemas are not the only beneficial of this new found popularity amongst movie goers.
New projects and movie initiatives are surfacing around the country, making local communities remember why they love films. A Small Cinema, originally conceived as a showcase event for filmmakers in the North West of England, has become a real happening born out of a fascination and desire to recreate the classic cinematic experience. Currently being developed as a community engagement project by artist collective Re-Dock, A Small Cinema is helping communities host their own short film events. Sam Meech, one of the artists working on the project, declared people now relate that going to the movies is more like going to a theme park. With the catchphrase “what cinema used to be”, A Small Cinema is trying to change that mindset and bring small cinemas back to communities. “A trip to Berlin inspired me to set up A Small Cinema. You could walk to about three cinemas from any given point. They might be literally on the fifth floor of a flat with 13 seats. I went to one when they couldn’t find any proper cinema seats, so they built some out of bricks with cushions— that really changed your idea of what a cinema was”, says Meech. Now A Small Cinema is trying to achieve the same thing, making people remember that watching film is a sharing experience, no matter where you watch it. Since the initiatives start in 2008, A Small Cinema has created short film screenings in galleries, empty shop spaces, music venues and even outdoors. A Small Cinema states that their aim is to understand the audience and reflect the context of that in the exhibition, by conducting research with communities and commissioning new films from local artists. By thinking outside the commercial box, A Small Cinema is trying to bring back and sustain our love for films. From a backdrop that multiplexes previously owned, the little ones are finally fighting back proving that our desire for a genuine cinematic experience is slowly being remembered.