Secret Cinemas

The Arts


A friend of mine organises private cinema, showing forgotten films and organising one-to-one group discussions afterwards that invoke the Chatham House Rule*. But she’s not the only one currently doing this. As the Independent points out, if you’re looking for a sign that the age of Odeon is over, the current bizarre vogue for tiny cinemas is a case of the smaller, the better as various shacks, caravans and sheds pop up across the land, vying for the title of the world’s smallest cinema and offering viewers an intimate film experience.

Somerset House’s Summer Screen (this year’s bill includes Manhattan, Mulholland Drive, Kill Bill and a vampire double-header of Let the Right One In and The Lost Boys, as well as pre-screening talks) and free films at The Scoop on the South Bank (from North by Northwest to Pretty Woman) – have been joined by a raft of al fresco alternatives across the country.

In July, Starlite Urban Drive-In launches its journey around the country in London’s Brick Lane. Twenty cars will be parked up in front of either Grease or Twilight with rollerskating waiters providing the refreshments. At the Berkeley Hotel’s luxury rooftop cinema there’s The September Issue complete with martinis and manicures. At the other end of the scale, the National Theatre will project films from the BFI Archive, including those that WH Auden and Benjamin Britten made for the GPO film unit in the 1930s, on to its Brutalist flytower late at night on Fridays throughout July, free of charge.

At the screening of the cult 1970s New York movie The Warriors in London Fields, the park was transformed into Coney Island (the location for the gang meeting in the film) with a Ferris wheel, candyfloss stalls and vintage NYPD cars while audience members showed their allegiances with bandanas, afro wigs and baseball bats. Before the film, actors wandered around in costume staging impromptu scenes; afterwards everyone piled into a tent for a Seventies disco.

While independent cinema is flourishing, and the refurbishment of smaller screens has created cool evening destinations, the tradition of alternative repertory is dying. The idea, then, is to bring it back by offering added value, and giving people an alternative to simply bunging in a DVD.

*When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.