The Greenwich Picturehouse

THE grand opening of last year was Greenwich Picturehouse, the latest in the slightly-arthouse chain which is gradually taking over/saving our smaller indie cinemas. It was certainly well-anticipated in this household and we were among the first to take up membership before the place had even opened. Naturally we didn’t go for the ‘foundation’ membership which, at £ 400 seemed a bit steep for benefits which largely amounted to being able to choose the wine that was served in the bar, but the ordinary membership seems excellent value and we’re making full use of it.

Of course there were a few teething problems that night – turning an old, non-profitable cinema into a multi-screen picture house is always going to present a few hitches – on opening night there were lots of bits of cardboard which said “I am a plasma screen” or “I am a ticket dispenser” and the ladies’ was flooded – but generally, once all the fuss died down, the Picturehouse began living up to expectation. A wide and interesting programme of events which don’t always include screenings – comedy and music are both scheduled there, and a lovely bar area (with equally lovely bartenders – both attentive and friendly) make it most definitely a destination in its own right though I think the promised “views of the river” are a little far-fetched unless they start providing periscopes.

There’s a gorgeous mini screening room downstairs with very squashy seats (they slide out so that you’re virtually horizontal – it’s like watching a movie in bed) and a bar, and I even like the chandelier in the foyer (though it’s just asking to be plaited by bored teenagers…)

The sliding seats (even though they don’t go quite as far as those in the screening room) get top marks – as does the Picturehouse’s attitude – hooray for a cinema that treats you like an adult.

Splendid events in the Screening Room downstairs include “Future Shorts” collections of short films by up-and-coming directors. Avoid Thursday morning screenings if you want to be able to actually see the movie – it’s their weekly “Big Scream” screening where people with children under one year old can go along and ‘enjoy’ watching a film surrounded by a hundred other screaming tots being changed by doting parents. I think it’s a brilliant idea – it means we all get to see the film – and I thank them for letting me see my version in peace…

Other great innovations are the “Silver Screenings” for over 60s before 6.00pm on a Thursday and the Kids Club on Saturday mornings with games and activities as well as a film so that you can park the little darlings with Someone Else and go off and enjoy the market in some peace. There are even specially-loud screenings for the hearing-impaired and specially-quiet screenings for autistic people.

If you’re counting the pennies, on Monday nights all tickets are a fiver, but it’s still worth mentioning you’re a member when you call, then they don’t charge a booking fee.

The tapas bar serves a variety of classic recipes, somewhat erratically presented (that’s a kind description.) We’ve had very muddled service which has missed out some dishes completely. The food is of varying quality too – sometimes ok, sometimes really rather poor – barely cooked potato in the omelette has happened a couple of times now, and I find myself wondering what the large quantities of cream in some dishes are hiding…

I might add that I don’t believe the Tapas Bar is anything to do with the actual Picture House except that it occupies the same building.

On the whole, Greenwich Picturehouse gets my thumbs most definitely UP. Filmworks, though geographically closer, will have to work hard to get my personal custom back.

Last night, one year on from all the furore, we decided to visit the Picturehouse again. It’s all much as it was – still shiny and new-feeling – though frankly now the mists have cleared from my eyes there are a few improvements they could make – like unplaiting the chandelier (why didn’t they see that coming?) and – more urgently – either finding a way to install more ladies loos or at least staggering the endings of films so the queue doesn’t reach the Cutty Sark.

That we walked out of A Scanner Darkly isn’t really the Picturehouse’s fault. I guess it’s down to us to ignore the gushing accolades in the brochure – after all even the Picturehouse can’t really be totally honest about movies that they are going to show. We picked badly – any film that has to be dressed up with groovy graphics must have something wrong with the plot and when after just half an hour I realised that even the Picturehouse’s famously comfy seats couldn’t slow down the numbing of my backside, I was grateful when my companion (note newspaper reviewer speak) whispered that he was bored and we quietly left. I noticed some other people doing the same behind us as if they were just waiting for someone else to do it first.

So – to sum up, the Picturehouse is still fantastic. A Scanner Darkly probably never has been. A tedious tale of ‘great trips I have known’ dressed up in cartoon form with a rotoscope to try to make up for inadequacies of the plot, it is the first movie I have ever walked out of.

Greenwich Picturehouse is one of The Phantom’s Favourite Haunts.

www.picturehouses.co.uk


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