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London’s Underground Cinema Clubs

David Harfield takes you inside one of our best kept secrets

Written by . Published on September 6th 2011.


London’s Underground Cinema Clubs

EVERYONE has their favourite films, the ones that they cherish, adore and take pride in the fact that they can recite large quantities of the movies’ dialogue at a moment’s notice. But what happens when the fantasy of screen adulation becomes blurred with the reality of living out the movie during a cinematic experience? London Confidential takes a look behind the scenes of London’s growing trend of underground cinema clubs. 

Wherever there is a passion for art, fanaticism soon follows. The movie world is no different and over the last few years, London’s underground cinema movement has become more and more celebrated by both film connoisseurs and mainstream audiences. Possibly one of the most famous, (or infamous), club is Secret Cinema, who’s tagline of ‘tell no one’ pretty much sums up their clandestine approach to guerilla cinema. One fan told London Confidential that they went to a Bugsy Malone evening that Secret Cinema hosted and everybody was decked out as gangsters and molls. Come the infamous custard pie fight finale, actors dressed in their sharpest suits ran out into the audience and handed out waterproof capes and plates of foam before Super Soaker toting bad guys took to the stage and a dripping, gleeful melee ensued. “It was absolutely incredible, easily one of the most enjoyable nights out I’ve ever had!”

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The temptation to join in on all of this fanatical film fun proved too much for us, so London Confidential attended an underground cinema event hosted by the Prince Charles cinema which paid homage to the comedy cult classic Wayne’s World in a ‘Schwing-a-thon’! The Prince Charles hosts several special events every month, dedicated to various cult films; Wayne’s World proved to be a popular choice, as the room was packed out with fans in home made Wayne’s World fancy dress, including Wayne’s psycho-stalker ex-girlfriend ‘Stacey’ look-a-likes, donning neck collars and carrying gun racks.

There was constant audience interaction throughout the evening, with a head-banging competition and a variety of drinking games, which involved imbibing every time that Wayne addressed the camera or tucked his hair behind his ear; anyone who has seen the film can take an educated guess at the merriment levels of guests as the game progressed. The decision to go for such a ‘quote-heavy’ film as Wayne’s World, is clearly a prudent one when it comes to crowd satisfaction. Viewers constantly parroting their favourite lines in a forum where such behaviour is actively encouraged, created a joyful camaraderie built on a set of strangers’ mutual love for classic cinema.

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The concept of blending cult films with audience interaction is so deliciously post-modern that it was always bound to catch on in London’s thriving cinema scene. The original theme nights have spawned dozens of copycat ventures, although some of them are truly impressive in their own right. The best thing to do if you want to be a part of one of these clubs is to explore which night would suit you the best. If you are the type to throw yourself into a moment wholeheartedly, then the Secret Cinema and Prince Charles evenings will probably be up your street, however, if you are more of a wallflower and prefer watching a favourite movie in kooky surroundings, then The Rooftop Cinema Club and Rich Mix are probably more your speed. Either way, these innovative nights are a wonderfully original way to spend a special evening; be brave and take a risk, but remember: tell no one!


If you want to delve into London’s world of underground cinema experiences, or just fancy trying out some unique, independent cinemas around the city, here are the best starting points for you:

Secret Cinema: A truly incredible cinema experience, in which you get notified of a secret location a few days before the event, come dressed in your finest suitable costumes and live out the film as you watch it. 

Prince Charles: A funky, retro cinema in Leicester Square that was once a porn movie house, hosting fun-filled themed nights based on cult classic films.

Queen of Hoxton: The Rooftop Cinema Club have chosen this Shoreditch bar as a venue to host its al fresco film parties, where selected films are shown on the roof of the bar, with London’s skyline on the horizon.

Rich Mix: Another Shoreditch cinema that screens a mix of independent films and mainstream movies, this former garment factory at the top of Brick Lane is much loved by local film fans and always has endless queues around its corner.

Screen On The Green: This Everyman cinema first opened in Angel back in 1911 and on 29th August 1976, it hosted The Buzzcocks, The Clash and The Sex Pistols back in 1976; after clearing up after that lot, the cinema has kept many of the original features of the Edwardian cinema in that it has reduced capacity for extra comfort. The picture house shows classic and contemporary movies, comedy and music events and boasts an impressive cocktail bar.

 

 

 

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