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Cinema's Secret Weapon

Gordon Kelly


You have to wonder about the future of cinema. With televisions becoming ever larger and cheaper, high definition content beginning to proliferate the home, the rise of on-demand video, 3D on the horizon and ever the shorter gaps between premieres and home viewing all don't help. But perhaps one venture has the right idea...

'Secret Cinema' is project we have been keeping our eyes on for a while now and it has definitely shown one route the cinema could take to ensure its survival. In an attempt to revolutionise the cinematic experience and make attending a film a genuine event once again, the organisation screens golden oldies, cult classics and new flicks with a funky twist.

As the name implies, the location of the event - and even the film itself - remain closely guarded secrets up until the day of the screening. So how does it all work? Surprising London site-specific locations from five-star hotel car parks to working city farms are commandeered to evoke the spirit of the secret movie. These have included a Christmas screening of Bugsy Malone, when people took to the streets of a mocked up Lower East Side, before taking part in a real life splurge fight and Alien, where guests were given boiler suits and invited into a futuristic warehouse where Ridley Scott introduced the film.

Yep, it's a little different. Past films include Paranoid Park, Funny Face, Anvil: Story of Anvil and The Warriors. And now there's a new event - location and film unknown as usual, but with a romance/Valentine's theme - happening on 27 and 28 February with matinee and evening shows. I experienced the Bugsy Malone screening and it truly was a remarkable night. You can find out more on the Secret Cinema site now (link below). Be warned, tickets usually go fast.

Ultimately there is a serious message to all this. The trick to relevancy is evolution and the key to cinema is to be an event, but home cinema is getting ever better at stripping that away. Could Secret Cinema be the answer? I think there are many answers, but yes - it definitely is one.


Secret Cinema

Secret Cinema YouTube Homepage


February 6, 2010, 12:16 am

Why do these events have to be a different special location take over. For big event films surely a location like a large hanger or cinema hall could be designed for quick background and set changes and use an imax screen in to the bargain. So for instance for Avatar the "audience set" would be based on the Pandora world with beaautiful backgrounds and props and maybe even with a few dressed up actors to make the audience feel they are there. Maybe a month later it could be like a battlefield or even an ocean and projectors could be used for effetcs as well to create a full multimedia experience. Look at this as the next stage of the imax and 3d experience as its taken to a level it becomes an experience. Doesn't sound so stupid an idea when you think of where things are going with the likes of the Jeff Waynea War of the Worlds and the Star Wars multimedia stage shows that are already a hige success I believe.


February 6, 2010, 12:33 am

@Joneb1999 - simple: keeps the mystery, stops people camping out, lets venues be prepared in secret without scrutiny. Otherwise, what you are suggesting is essentially what they do in each new location. Love some of your ideas!


February 6, 2010, 12:44 am

Can't imagine cinema dying out. Home theatre is getting better and better but something like Avatar or the Lord of the Rings has to be seen on the biggest screen posssible to do it justice.


February 6, 2010, 1:20 am

I can imagine a secret cinema experience is much better then a normal one. However, to me its attraction seems to lie in being a member of a select club, and going to a secretive event, so I can't see the experience being able to scale up and expanding beyond its niche.

Not sure about the future of cinema, but maybe it's the cinematic equivalent of a flashmob - I'd love to go to one but I can't see Ridley Scott, or anyone remotely famous, going out of their way to hold one in Grimsby.


February 6, 2010, 3:42 am

i've always had the annoying habit of falling asleep while watching the movies i rent - be it on virgin or blockbusters (the one in my area is now dead)

i'd pick a cinema any time.if not for the fact my baby sister can't possibly tune the cinema screen to cbeebies and make me watch it.

Geoff Richards

February 6, 2010, 5:15 am

TBH, I was interested until I spotted that it was £23.50 and I wouldn't find out what the film was until I'd paid.

Didn't stop them selling out in double-quick time though


February 6, 2010, 5:22 am

@Geoff, people have more money than brains.

I'd never pay that much (nearly $40!) for a movie much less when I didn't even know what it was!


February 6, 2010, 2:44 pm

On a simpler lever why don't older films get re-screened more often. It happens with music constantly. Pick 2 films a week and show them. Films that should be seen on the big screen ideally. I'd have loved to have seen Terminator 2 in the cinema before I saw 3. I think they are doing this with Toy Story just now.


February 6, 2010, 4:26 pm

Not interested at all. Cinema needs to die out.

As soon as I can watch what I want, when I want, how I want, as soon as it's released I will be happy. I hate paying to sit with potentially stupid, selfish people on crap seats on sticky floors. Secret Cinema is a step forward in removing the stupid and selfish for movie lovers, but it still doesn't stop the fact I want control of the remote :P


February 6, 2010, 7:49 pm

Gordon, the point Geoff Richards makes is whats behind my idea of fixed locations but also fixed films. Mystery may work for a few one off events now and again but if this new "experience" is to be become as popular as cinema today and as available it wil need to lose the mystery and have a location that is set with access of probably no more than one hour from most people (in my areas there are 5 cinemas within 30 minutes). In a larger market more people will be turned away from not knowing what they are getting than will be attracted as if they have to pay big cash then they wont want a lottery on what they get in case its a movie they hate, also wasting their leisure time.


February 6, 2010, 10:15 pm

@Geoff - I'd dispute the comment about price. It is well worth it. What you get is an entire evening, the film is the centre piece, but you will be there 5/6 hours which seems much better value than a concert (circa £30-40) to me. Besides, it's about £20 to go to the cinema in London when you figure in the popcorn, nachos, drink, etc and more like £30 in Leicester Square.

@Joneb1999 - fair point, but that's clearly an idea for another company. You always get a hint as to the genre, but it rather destroys the point of 'Secret Cinema' to not have secrets...


February 7, 2010, 12:46 pm

I think that live sporting events have a big future in the cinema. Once people learn to shout and cheer at a cinema screen the atmosphere of the real game will begin to be created. You could watch your team's away matches without travelling, internationals which have sold out, anything from abroad. I predict this summer's experiment with the world cup in 3D will be a huge success, but the 3D part is unnecessary.

They will have to open the bar of course.


February 7, 2010, 3:34 pm

@Pzazz I actually did that in a Manchester Cinema in 02, and admittedly it was actually pretty good despite only 15 people being seated and about four of us cheering. They still served alcohol but unlike a pub the atmosphere is all about the game not drinking.


February 7, 2010, 7:58 pm

Sounds too much like a gimmick to me. Perhaps what the cinemas parent companies the actual studios could do is maybe have some faith in their directors and allow them to get on with their jobs much like they did in the 70's? Instead they seem content to trot out the usual predictable crap by Judd Appatow, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and the other associated smug no-marks.

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