I went to the cinema this evening, nothing unusual there, I watch at least two movies at the cinema in an average week. Tonight was a little different and a little special. The movie I saw The Last Projectionist, a lament on the dying art of film projection told against the backdrop of The Electric, Britain’s oldest working cinema. The film tells the story of the cinema located in my home city Birmingham, interspersed with interviews of people involved in the cities cinema’s including projectionists. Directed (amongst other things) by the Electric’s owner Tom Lawes, who rescued and restored the near derelict cinema in 2004 returning the old building to its current art deco style elegance after years of neglect. The movie is charming and informative but is tinged with sadness of the end of an era as film projection is replaced by its digital alternative. But why was my experience so special? Simply, I saw the movie at The Electric. I’m not sure how wide a release the movie will get, it probably isn’t one for everyone, but is essential viewing for film fans.
This wasn’t my first experience of The Electric, my previous visit was in the late 90’s. The manager of the day appears in the film and described it at that time as being the level below a fleapit, a description that is a little unkind but not that far of the mark. Interestingly the reason I haven’t returned for more than a decade wasn’t because of the experience of the day, it was because of the pass offered by my local multiplex making my excessive cinema going more affordable. I had heard Lawes talking about the cinema on the radio (he provides film reviews on local radio) and know people who speak highly of the cinema but wasn’t really prepared at for how special the place is. Like the film I saw there, the place oozes charm and history; from the boxoffice with its old “Automaticket” machine and the well stocked bar (including a traditional Absinthe Fountain) to the stairway to screen two with its original Vitrolite tiled walls, this is a whole different cinema experience. As the cinema is fully licensed, drinks aren’t limited to the bar, you can take them to into the auditorium. Best of all they don’t sell popcorn, in its place there is a selection of handmade cakes!
As great as the experience was I unfortunately won’t be rushing back. It a simple matter of economy at £7 for a standard ticket it is in line with the multiplexes, however I pay £14.99 to visit my local multiplex as many times a month as I like, usually around ten! One thing I can guarantee, I won’t leave it over a decade before returning.