Priced Out of Indie Cinemas

Picturehouse Central

The Cineworld in London’s Trocadero near Leicester Square was a grim place; mice scuttled across the floor and every surface was sticky. When the lights went down and a film started to play it was a sweet release to be lost in a fictional world but when the final credits rolled the horror of the surroundings dragged you back to reality with a bump. A sticky, slightly squelchy, bump. Thankfully the dark days of the Trocadero Cineworld are behind us and the era of Picturehouse Central is here.

 

Picturehouse Central is a beautiful temple to cinema with exposed brickwork, a grand staircase, and an inefficient but effective use of light-bulbs. While the Cineworld was an ugly duckling the site has now grown into a gorgeous Picturehouse swan. What films do they show you ask? Why only the finest selection of mainstream and art house films of course! (And Ted 2.) So why did I go to book tickets last week and balk at the idea?

£18 a ticket is why.

This combined with a £1.50 booking fee makes the new Picturehouse Cinema more expensive (for a standard adult ticket) than going to the country’s biggest screen at the BFI IMAX. Admittedly a closer look at the ticket prices does reveal discounts for Picturehouse members and £8 tickets until 2016 for a select group of screenings including Picturehouse DOCS, Discover Tuesdays, Vintage Sundays and Culture Shock. Sadly no sign of the £7 tickets on a Monday as mentioned when the cinema first opened last month.

The independent cinema chains (an oxymoron surely?) do tend to be a bit pricier but even the Curzon Soho, just up the road from the Trocadero, only charges £14 and the truly independent, and truly spectacular, Price Charles Cinema clocks in at £11 at peak times.

I love films and I love Picturehouses, Greenwich and Hackney Picturehouses have been graced with my presence on multiple occasions, but I struggle to justify spending more than £15 on a single cinema ticket. Call me cheap or call me sane but prices this high will simply make most screenings at an otherwise fantastic cinema inaccessible to those below a certain salary band. My main point is that I really, really want to go to Picturehouse Central. I want to eat organic snacks in tastefully upholstered seating but don’t have enough disposable income to do so.

To put the £18 ticket fee in context, and to find a more affordable place to spend time in the dark, I have taken a look at all the cinemas you can find in central London to see how much they charge. I’ve even put them all on a map for you. Clicking on each cinema on the map shows the price of a single adult ticket for a Thursday evening 2D screening with no concessions or membership deals taken into account. Booking fees are shown in brackets where available.

If you are looking for a mainstream movie your best bet is to visit one of the not too sticky smaller Odeons and for smaller films the Prince Charles Cinema is always worth a look. When you’re feeling a bit more flush then maybe you’ll want to give Picturehouse Central a try. Take me with you when you go, I’ll buy dinner if you get the tickets.

For updates on events, offers, and openings in and around London sign up to The Slice from Metro.

Curzon On Demand

Curzon Cinemas (a wonderful art-house cinema group) have recently launching Curzon On Demand, a service allowing you to access a huge range of foreign, art-house and independent films online. Films start from £2.00 and any film you buy is yours to stream for seven days. I gave the new service a test earlier this week and highly recommend it.

Signing up was easy and once logged-in, the only problem I had was choosing what film to watch. Films range from the silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin, through Mild Concern favourites like The Portuguese Nun, and on to films currently on release in cinemas such as La Havre and Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life. After a lot of contemplation and soul-searching I settled on Fermat’s Room, a Spanish film about four mathematicians trapped in a room that is slowly closing in on itself as they are forced to solve riddles.

The film was great, a forgotten gem that I had given up hope of seeing years ago, picture and sound quality were perfect and even my sometimes dodgy internet didn’t ruin the experience. The film was gripping and surprising, almost like a more intellectual version of The Cube with better acting but just as much maths.

Living in London, I sometimes take for granted the easy access we have to independent film through cinemas like Curzon but the whole of the UK is not all so lucky. What makes Curzon On Demand such a great prospect is that it allows everyone across the country to have access to the lastest art-house films at the same time and for about half the cost of seeing the same film in the West End. No longer will you see the phrase “limited release” and resign yourself to never getting the chance to see a film.

I highly recommend you go to www.curzonondemand.com and sign up. It’s free to join and there are a fair few films to tempt you.

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