Last Tuesday evening I trudged up the hill to Blackheath to set foot for the first time ever in Zippo’s Circus tent. I haven’t been to the circus since I was a kiddie and I confess that without a small child in tow it’s unlikely I’ll be going again in the near future even though Norman Barrett’s budgies could weaken my resolve (I feel sorry for the poor chap left in the cage in this clip – aw, no chance to play on the slide…)
But this wasn’t for circus. This was for the latest in the trend towards showing classic films in funky venues or in cool ways.
I heartily applaud the move to show movies in strange places – I guess it all started with the Somerset House screenings, but it’s moving into odder and odder territory and I’m delighted to see it.
Local highlights for me in the past few years have included the superb (and free) Stella Artois screenings of Back the The Future and Master and Commander in Greenwich Park a few years ago, Bright Young Things (not so free) at Eltham Palace and Grease (sort of free) at Avery Hill Park last year, which if they didn’t get quite right (parking giant vintage trucks in front of the lower modern vehicles meant no one could see the screen, which involved an impromptu grass-seating thing, very chilly by the end, and a splendidly Rydell High-esque ending where the credits cut out and we got a headmaster-style speech saying ‘now we’ve all had a jolly good time, haven’t we, but that’s it. Clear off.. .”) was still lots of fun.
Secret Cinema does it best of course – as anyone who went to the Lawrence of Arabia screening last summer will know. They’ve not quite managed to keep up the standard since IMHO (though I haven’t seen the latest one yet -and I will instantly bar anyone who even hints at what it is, okay…) but it’s still the best cinematic experience around.
Nomad Cinema feels a little like it’s jumping on the bandwagon, but when the bandwagon’s such fun, who’s complaining. Basically it takes its screen around London and the South East doing a sort of Secret Cinema-lite. The advantage is that you know what the film is in advance (the last Secret Cinema saw a screening room full of swooning girls and the bars full of bored blokes), you know where it’s going to be and it’s less than half the price of Secret Cinema, if you’re not the sort that likes to be surprised and you can’t afford thirty-odd quid for SC. And they’re very good at matching the film to the venue – Fight Club in a boxing ring, for example, or Pans Laybrinth in Brompton Cemetery.
Now of course it’s a much smaller event, which means that instead of the sort of antics SC would get up to for The Lost Boys – where they would probably recreate an entire Californian theme park, make the audience go in via a lost Edwardian pleasure arcade swallowed by a real earthquake and give out tickets in the form of vampire comics – we get to see the movie in a circus tent and hear a bloke noodling on the saxophone before the screening, which is intermittently obscured by swathes of smoke, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Small can be beautiful, and I got the feeling this was a bit of a tryout for the summer. I’m rubbish at guessing numbers but I wouldn’t say there were more than a couple of hundred people, and with numbers like that you have to be realistic.
I love The Lost Boys. It’s utter nonsense and the haircuts were daft even in the 80s. I had a brilliant evening and though the Zippos seats are meant for children which meant it was a bit uncomfortable by the end, I would see a Nomad show again in a flash.
So now they’ve announced their dates for the summer, I thought I’d let you know about the Greenwich ones. They’re not quite what my choice would have been, but I guess they’re making an effort to match the films to the venue.
The Greenwich ones are at the Royal Observatory. I’m assuming the RO gardens, as it will be easier to collect the money (ah, Stella Artois, come back with your lovely free screenings, all is forgiven…)
7th August - 2001 – A Space Odyssey. An odd choice, perhaps, for a picnic-film, but hey – full marks for classicability.
8th August – Wall-E. Not my favourite PIXAR but still a fun film. Good family choice.
29th September – Back to the Future Pt 1 – a GREAT choice – shame it’s already been done – and in the same place – but I can watch that film over and over, and probably will again.
I shall probably go to all three. And they have other stuff going on all over if you don’t mind leaving lovely Greenwich (including a romatic screening of Casablanca at Dulwich Park).
Just out of interest – what would your film choice have been for a Greenwich Park movie? I had rather hoped for Apollo 13, The Right Stuff or Muppet Treasure Island, myself.