The First Ten
While compiling my list-of-every-film-I-ever-saw-at-the-cinema, I realised I saw a formidable 20 movies in 2000. So, naturally, I wanted to see if I could beat that. Deciding to up the stakes a little, I wondered if I could visit 23 different cinemas in 2023. Perhaps I got a little over excited in the first three months of the year but here are my first ten.
Let’s start by saying that I like all of these cinemas. I’ve ranked them very loosely, leading up to my favourite, although a couple could be interchangeable.
10. Wood Green Vue (Matilda the Musical)
The staff here were friendly and patient when we brought 270 children in. The kids from our school appreciated the free tickets we got via Into Film, as did the parent volunteers. A school cinema trip can be a delightful experience. Impromptu applause from the kids at certain moments was sweet at first but then they started to milk it. Maybe I was just being a grumpy teacher who doesn’t like musicals.
9. BFI Southbank (Enys Men, Pather Panchali)
BFI is a noble and important charity, putting on great festivals and events with a fantastic archive and film shop. Both screenings I went to were well attended if not fully booked, although some of the other patrons on my row had ants in their pants. An aisle seat can be a blessing and a curse. I was sad to have missed most of the Kurosawa season showings but I made up for it in reduced DVDs in the shop. It’s always worth keeping an eye out for what’s on at the BFI.
8. Curzon Mayfair (Corsage)
I don’t know why it took me so long to visit the original Curzon. I always thought the Soho one was the first but there’s no hiding the fact that this one is on Curzon Street. Sadly, the landlords are now threatening to close the cinema. You can read more about what to do to save it here. What a glorious interior; the seating is comfortable and each pair of seats get you a little table with your own lamp too.
7. Curzon Sea Containers (65)
There’s a slightly soporific feeling as you enter through the dimly lit hotel and it’s calm and quiet in the bar waiting area. The mysterious incident the staff were whispering about is still with me. They were very professional and sotto voce but something bad and maybe tragic had clearly happened the night before and they were trying to get to grips with it. Perhaps I’m just nosy but it added to a slightly surreal filmic visit. On a lighter note, it was lovely to have the cosy screen to ourselves and walking out of the hotel at the end to a night view of the Thames is a great draw.
6. Cine Lumiere (Passion)
L’Institut Français is a really classy joint and I’d go again just to spend time in that swanky looking bar if I’m ever in Kensington. The cool blue seating is really comfortable and they have a decent selection of events on. I would also like to watch something on their smaller downstairs screen soon. With older and artier films I always appreciate the insight you get when someone introduces the film and it made me feel like a student again, in a nice way.
5. Ritzy Brixton (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania)
I can’t believe I’ve never been to this fantastic centenarian cinema before. I have a vague memory of having a cup of tea in the cafe before it was a Picturehouse. The interior is relaxed and well kept and the decor in the screens is impressive. There’s also an upstairs venue that I want to investigate next time. Being near Brixton tube on the Victoria line means this is much easier to get to than you think.
4. Cinema City Norwich (EO)
I first went here as a child and still find it charming. I remember the Take 5 cafe/bar was also a cool place to hang out when I was in sixth form and beyond. It’s a grade I listed building in Norwich City Centre with some parts from the 14th century now run by Picturehouse, who by all accounts aren’t an overbearing franchise, leaving their cinemas very much to do things their own way.
3. Phoenix Finchley (Popiół i diament)
What a fantastic place. I moved to North London in 2001 so why I haven’t already visited is a mystery. I’ll certainly go again soon. They put on an interesting range of events and viewings. Ours included a talk before the film that was being rereleased, hearing the speaker moved to tears speaking of the death of the director that he had befriended over the years gave it a poignant personal touch. It was extremely well attended so it seems popular in the community. As I tried to take a photo too quickly of the gorgeous art deco decor, I ended up with a very fitting shot reminiscent of a Phoenix in flames.
2. Prince Charles Cinema (Chungking Express, Belle de Jour, Sorcerer, The Getaway)
The best cinema in central London. I still remember the member tickets being a pound when I first moved to London. It took me ages to get membership though because I remember the regular price ones only being a couple of quid anyway. An excellent London institution (I’ve been four times this year already) – the nicest cult you’ll ever join.
1. David Lean Croydon (Women Talking)
I fell in love with this cinema. I’ve been twice now since I booked my ticket for the wrong date but fortunately there was another teacher strike on the correct date, perhaps that was why I got confused. Anyway, this little place in the Clock Tower community arts centre is extremely charming plus the volunteers that run it are lovely. We got chatting and they even let me have a little look around the projection room, which was fascinating and made me feel like a big boy, despite being forty this year.
Here’s the ongoing twitter thread. Where else should I visit this year?