September 11, 2010

Secrets, Pop-ups and Roadshows

I'd like to take a moment, if I could, to talk about some super-neato cinema events that have been going on. Over in Ye Olde England, specifically in London-town, there is something called Secret Cinema. Rolling out across those uppity colonials, the United States, is the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow. Back in England, there are various small cinemas popping up in places like here and here. What are these strange and wonderful things? Why, only what I consider the very future of the film-going and cinematic experience. Hopefully.

Secret Cinema is exactly that; a secret. Well, the event itself is becoming less and less of a secret (what with recent articles in the Guardian and Empireonline), but the actual film to be screened is kept under wraps until the audience arrives. But it's not only that; it's making the act of going to the movies a grand night out again. It aims to engage with you, the audience, rather than just have you plonk down your hard earned savings for a ticket and some popcorn and then ushering you out the door as soon as the credits start to roll. Though the film may be kept a secret, ticket holders are advised of what kind of themed costumes to wear. Yes. Themed costumes. People are engaged. People are involved. And it's not only themed costumes and a movie, it's a whole show in of itself. For example the recent Lawrence of Arabia had a whole bazaar set-up with real live camels. You don't find that down the local multiplex.

The Secret Cinema is part of a larger movement in the UK of what is being termed "pop-up cinema". This is cinemas popping up in small or unlikely venues, sometimes for only a limited season. A prime example of this is the Cineroleum, a disused petrol station converted into a small cinema for three weeks. It is made up of found and donated materials, with the screen having been found in a skip. They screen classic films and it's not just about unusual spaces to watch movies; it's about re-using spaces, about finding new and interesting uses for them that the public can enjoy. There are also a couple variations on the theme in the US and Australia.

One of the biggest of those variations is the Rolling Roadshow, run by the Alamo Drafthouse. The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas is the home of Fantastic Fest, the largest and most important genre festival in the States. The Rolling Roadshow, which has just wrapped up, is just that: a roadshow of films taken across the States. But with a slight twist: they're shown at locations important to the film. Thus, you're given The Blues Brothers at Joliet prison in Illinois, Dirty Harry in Washington Square Park in San Francisco, RoboCop in an old industrial centre in Detroit and The Godfather Part II on the rooftops of Little Italy in New York. And they're all FREE. How fuckin' cool does that sound?!

My question, my pondering, is whether something like these events can be done here in NZ. I'm honestly not sure. For one, I just don't know that we have the population base. And we are quite far from the rest of the world. If the prints aren't already here, how many people would be willing to pay the courier costs for these films that aren't guaranteed a paying audience? Because I really don't know if that audience is here for classic films or genre masterpieces. I mean, I'm there. But as audience numbers for the recent showings of Enter the Dragon and Badlands at the Embassy (two films I would never have imagined I would get to see at the cinema) show, not everyone else is. For me, a chance to see a Bruce Lee kung-fu classic on the big screen is a no-brainer. And I would guarantee that if Badlands had shown at the Festival (possibly in a restored print) it would've done business. But then, Festival crowd is different to your regular punters.

I love going to the cinema, going out to the movies. It's not just watching a film on the biggest screen possible. It's the experience; the feeling of being transported or of sharing something undefinable but communal. The difference between watching a film (dirt and all) in the dark with a crowd of strangers in a cinema and chucking a DVD (or Blu-Ray) on your big telly is vast, like a chasm. Of vastness. They are entirely different experiences. I would love to have something like what's going on overseas here. How awesome would it be to watch Jaws out at a surf club? Or Vertigo atop the Sky Tower? If you wanted to keep it to NZ films, what about Braindead (or Dead Alive) at Wellington Zoo? Bad Taste out at Pukerua Bay? Whale Rider on the East Coast? Could it be workable? Is there anyone who would put it on? Would people come?

I would.


  1. If you could get the equipment and the films, I'm sure you could manage it. How fab that would be.

  2. Well, there is a guy in the States who runs something called MobMov (Mobile Movies) who basically drives about with a projector set-up in his car. The driving drive-in as he calls it. I am a bit of a spaz for actual film though.