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.

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Dominion, Edinburgh – Indie Cinema

Dominion cinema, Edinburgh

Mild Concern ventured north of the border to Scotland’s capital recently. While there, we thought it only right to visit an independent cinema. Housed in a listed building, until not too long ago, the Dominion in Edinburgh was billed as “Luxury and style in the heart of Morningside” (it’s now not quite as charmingly offered as “Luxury and style for you”). The establishment makes real efforts to convey this ethos from the manager dressed in the dinner jacket to including bottles of champagne amongst the wide range of usual concessions on offer (£40 if you’re up for it.)

Despite the luxurious image (or perhaps because of – I’ve been living down south for too long) the staff are friendly, helpful and not at all condescending, and we were surprised to be handed a complimentary mini tube of Pringles each as we entered the largest of the four screens. The acoustics are a little strange, and the free snacks seemed like less of a bonus when it became evident that we could hear people eating several rows behind. Also, the screen feels a long distance away if sitting more than half way back. Those seats are incredibly comfortable though, with a range of reclining armchairs and two-seater sofas and I am assured that the smaller screens make for a less cavernous experience but can’t vouch for that myself.
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The Aubin, Shoreditch – Indie Cinema

Aubin and Wills

Hello hipster central!

Shoreditch is that weird bit of north-east London that straddles Hackney and The City, mixing up too cool for school indie kids, besuited corporate types, tech heads of the Silicon Roundabout and council-housed locals. Unemployment is a terrifying 40% but browse the hipster clothes shops of Shoreditch High Street and you’d never believe it. Except you’re not here for a sociology report and unsurprisingly, (not least because of the post’s title) this oh-so-hip of post codes has indie cinemas. One of those cinemas is The Aubin.

What might be more unexpected is that the home of The Aubin Cinema is Aubin & Wills, a clothes retailer that is fairly typical of the local scene. As a result, the pre-film adverts include an extended catalogue shoot of the season’s collection, which is partly filmic but mostly too self-conscious for its own good.

To be honest, it’s hard to like Aubin & Wills, whose slogan – “Exclusively for the discerning” – combines with its £300 sunglasses to convey a nose in the air style that grates with the knowledge that virtually next door, 50% of the local children live below the poverty line. However, it’s equally difficult to dislike The Aubin Cinema.

The single screen has capacity for an intimate crowd of 45 people on velvet covered seating but most excitingly, there are very comfy two-person sofas complete with their own cushions, blankets and footrests. All of this contributes to a cosy atmosphere and is undeniably perfect for date night. The staff are also friendly and the person we spoke to was very helpful when we needed to change our pre-booked tickets.

The Aubin Cinema

The Aubin claims to show “a broad range of quality mainstream and art house films and features popular titles that are critically acclaimed and eagerly anticipated by filmgoers” but as of writing, The Hangover Part II is its main feature and overall, the programme looks like it was conceived by a 15 year-old boy: looking ahead Bad Teacher is scheduled for a two-week run. That said, we did see Submarine here but that’s about a 15 year-old boy.

Price-wise, The Aubin’s not cheap but compared with nearby central London, not eye-wateringly expensive either. Really, it’s a special treat cinema but choose the week you see it carefully because while Aubin & Wills fashion may be for the discerning, whoever selects The Aubin Cinema’s films is definitely not.

AUSTERITY BRITAIN BOX (more info)
The closest chain cinema is Vue Islington. Angel is one stop on the Northern Line from Old Street.
Aubin Vue
Single adult
ticket:
£13.00 £10.75
Two-seater sofa: £28/£30 No sofas but VIP seating: £13.20
Booking fee: £0.70
Popcorn: £3.00 (also available:
chilli covered salty flavour)
£3.20 (Medium*)
Soft Drinks: £2.50 (large bottles) £3.25 (medium*)
Bottle of Peroni: 660ml: £5.50 =
330ml: £2.75
330ml: £4.20
*For medium, read whatever is the middle of the three sizes.
Updated 3rd July 2011
Special Deals
Mondays and certain Sunday screenings (usually delayed releases) are reduced prices, with single seats at £8 and sofas at £18/£22.The seats in the front left have a restricted view and are discounted by £5 (£2 on Mondays).

Coming up next week, The Aubin has a classier line-up with Senna as its main feature, much-lauded Pina 3D on Sunday and a Members preview of Mel Gibson’s comeback movie, The Beaver.

The Aubin Fox

Rio, Dalston – Indie Cinema

Rio Cinema

Our independent cinema reviews begin in London’s East End: The Rio in Dalston, Hackney.

Rio Inside

The single screen is a decent size, with a capacity of 400 comfy seats. For those with long limbs, the leg room is good and the spacing means short people get a decent view. The concessions stand has a good, wide selection including Monmouth coffee, a whole host of Twinings tea and a range of beer, wine and cider. On the snack side, there are (at least) three different types of popcorn, ice cream and a lot of chocolate.

There tends to be one or two recent releases, combining the (usually well-reviewed) mainstream with arthouse. On Sundays, they have double bill matinees – recently these have been a Geoffrey Rush pair and a selection from the Fringe! Gay Film Festival.

The Rio manage to balance their approach to catering for the newer artsy crowd and the longer-established Hackney residents, including the elderly and young families. The staff are pleasant and despite only one screen, the film choices are well-judged. Overall, The Rio is a local’s cinema: a comfortable place to go for an evening with the reasonable expectation of being entertained.

AUSTERITY BRITAIN BOX (more info)
Despite its size, Hackney doesn’t have much in the way of chain cinemas so for the purposes of comparison, the closest large cinema is probably the Vue Islington – about 20 minutes on the number 38 bus away
Rio Vue
Single adult ticket: £9.00 £10.75
Booking fee: £0.50 £0.70
Medium* Popcorn: £2.00 (Butterkist £1.30) £3.20
Medium* Soft Drink: £2.20 £3.25
Bottle of Peroni (330ml): £2.50 £4.20
*For medium, read whatever is the middle of the three sizes.
Special Deals
This may not be our demographic but especially for the over 60s, there are free Classic Matinees one Wednesday a month. These also have an interval, with tea and cake!Under 60s also welcome at usual matinee prices (£7). I do not know if the cake will be shared.

If you’re planning a trip to the Rio this week, they’re showing Little White Lies, A Turtle’s Tale, Rango and Shogun Assassin.

The Sunday Double is from Japanese Director Tetsuya Nakashima: Memories of Matsuko and +Confessions.

See the Rio diary for more details.

Mild Concern Goes to Indie Cinemas

Brixton Ritzy

My earliest memories of movie-watching are of going to our local flea-pit to be scared witless by The Secret of NIMH. In the same cinema, I was also terrified by The Fox and the Hound and Oliver & Company but then the cinema closed. So in order to experience future animated frights, this scaredy-cat had to take a 40-minute bus trip and walk another 20 to get to a 15-screen multiplex on the outskirts of Peterborough.

In the entirety of my childhood and teenage years, all that seemed to change in that Showcase – or any other Showcase for that matter – were that the seats got shabbier and more uncomfortable and popcorn got more expensive, safe in a retail environment with zero competition. They even rolled out the exact same Christmas message every year.

We at Mild Concern like independent cinemas because where else would we get to watch weird Portuguese films that no one wants to read the reviews of? So, we’re starting a feature highlighting and reviewing the ones that we get to try. This will, inevitably, be mostly London-centric because unlike the BBC, we can’t afford to make any of our writers relocate to Scotland. But when we do get a chance to visit an indie cinema out of the capital, we’ll be there, jealous of the ticket prices.

Which leads neatly onto the Austerity Britain Box. If you’re Squeezed in the Middle or repeatedly hitting snooze on Alarm Clock Britain or whatever other spin term we want to hijack to say that it can be expensive to go see a movie these days, we’re here for you! The Austerity Britain Box will summarise the ticket prices in comparison with other nearby chain options, the cost of snacks and any special deals. Then maybe you can put that £1.20 we save you to setting up your own cinema one day.

Coming soon… The Rio, Dalston