If you're bored of blockbusters and multiplexes leave you cold, check out a new generation of cinematic experiences that are putting the magic back into the movies.
Every social trend has its antithesis and as big blockbusters get bigger, special effects get shinier and multiplexes multiply, the backlash among style-savvy urbanites is well and truly underway. A growing number of venues and events are putting the magic back into cinema and heralding a renaissance in the cinematic experience.
Secret Cinema is one of the trend's trailblazers. What began as an underground movement staging clandestine screenings, is now a monthly phenomenon with over 100,000 followers (despite their motto, 'Tell no one'). Ticket holders receive an email on the day of the screening directing them to a secret location, where the evening starts with a live performance of actors, music and props to set the scene. Screenings have ranged from Paranoid Park in a disused railway tunnel to Funny Face at The Royal Academy of Arts. The latest event saw 15,000 people (and a couple of camels) in full Bedouin gear descend on Alexandra Palace to watch Lawrence of Arabia.
East London's style mavens are flocking to gorgeous new micro cinema The Aubin – a spin-off of Shoreditch House and the Aubin & Wills fashion brand - located in the flagship store's basement on Redchurch Street. A rough-luxe industrial lobby and bar give way to a snug screening room, complete with plush grey velvet double sofas, armchairs and even cosy plaid blankets to snuggle up under. Viewers can indulge in nibbles and cocktails while they watch new releases or art house flicks. Tom Evans from Jack Wills says the Aubin reflects a trend for niche cinemas: "The type of audience we want to visit our cinema are more discerning about where they watch films. They like comfort; they like style and they like to be able to share a bottle of wine whilst watching a film."
As the vintage trend continues apace, the past few months have heralded a revival in old-school cinematic experiences – take the launch of The Cineroleum. Located in a derelict petrol station in Clerkenwell, the cinema was entirely hand-built from found materials by a collective of creatives, and designed to recreate the decadent interiors of cinema's bygone golden age. With wooden flip-down seats enclosed by an ornate curtain strung from the forecourt roof, the venue truly recreated the atmosphere of the picture palace, and showed off-beat classics to match.
This summer also saw the launch of another retro favourite - the drive-in movie (albeit with the addition of a very modern brand sponsor). Volvo's Starlite Urban Drive-in transformed a car park on Brick Lane into an open-air cinema, complete with 25 cars already provided and roller skating waitresses. The concept is set to tour the UK early next year.
Also newly launched is The Vintage Mobile Cinema - an original 60s cinema-on-wheels that has been painstakingly restored to its former glory days when it was part of a government-owned fleet. Featuring a snug 22-seat theatre and full-size screen, this one-of-a-kind concept looks set to take the UK festival scene by storm – most recently showing retro flicks at Vintage at Goodwood.
The brainchild of cultural entrepreneur Damian Barr (and the man behind Starlite drive-ins), Silent Cinema takes the collective experience to a whole new level. Viewers hook up to individual wireless headphones, allowing them to laugh or scream as loud as they like – their fellow cinema goers are non the wiser. Located at a converted railway carriage café The Deptford Project, seats are made from old wooden palettes, with cushions hand-sewn from recycled fabrics and a parachute silk canapé overhead; while nightly BBQs provide food to eat while you watch. Three weekends of films including 80s favourites, horror and cult classics will begin on September 9th.