EVENT PREVIEW: The Secret Cinema Strikes Back.

This editorial is SPOILER FREE and safe to read. The SPOILER FREE review of the event itself will be available to read on Sunday the 14th of June.

Oh Star Wars, you’ve been there my whole life and not in a figure of speech kind of way. There were little 80’s Darth Vader action figures, place mats and lunch boxes as permanent fixtures in my household before I could even say my first words, along with other random merchandise hiding here and there (Princess Leia toothbrush used to clean the bathroom? Check. Official yet semi terrible spin-off cartoons, including Droids and that hyper happy Ewok one, on VHS? Check. Very likely NOT official copies of all the films on VHS? Big check there)

Star Wars was as much an important part of my growing up as anything else. It has been such a big influence on our family that my brother even used the planets of Star Wars as the table names at his wedding and should I ever tie the knot I will be fighting the temptation to walk down the aisle as the Imperial March plays.

A while ago my sister told me about a company called Secret Cinema and how she’d gone to an immersive showing on Casablanca, I’d not heard of them before but it wouldn’t be long until they became as close to a household name as you can get.

I’m a fan of immersive performance experiences, despite my dislike of people who are `in character` trying to talk to me (I have two different qualifications in performing arts and drama studies, I’m allowed to be a bit of a snob!) So throw together Star Wars, getting to see the film on the big screen again AND it all taking place in an elaborate interactive venue and you have my attention, 100%!

Secret Cinema has been making waves over the last few years with their intense productions of classic film favourites, art house offerings and (like in the case of The Grand Budapest Hotel) more recent Hollywood releases. The company has been gain momentum and popularity, at first this was mainly within the London set – you heard of the events through word of mouth or stumbled upon their events by chance but it soon became near impossible to get tickets and films sold out with increasing speed.

Many people would have first heard of Secret Cinema with last year’s Back to the Future extravaganza, their biggest production until now. Unfortunately for the company this new large scale venture got off to a very rocky start, with the first week of showings being cancelled extremely late in the day and with no explanation. The first day it was supposed to run the event was called off with barely thirty minutes until doors were  to open and no way of letting people know until they had actually turned up.

As a follower of the most channels of Secret Cinema’s social media, I saw first-hand the thousands of angry film lovers trying to get some kind of response from the company. Speculation was high as the company refused to give any details on why they had to keep calling off the Hill Valley Fair, our portal to the world of Marty McFly and Doc Brown. My interest was more than passing – I had grit my teeth and forked out for two tickets, at £55 each I had felt a physical pain when typing in my debt card details, if I had been in the group to get cancelled on I would have been out for blood as well. Especially considering Secret Cinema requires attendees to dress in a certain way, bring along specific props and accessories and generally spend more money on things you don’t already own. For Back to the Future I had to buy red sunglasses (not easy to find), those old-fashioned red and blue 3D glasses (how am I supposed to wear both at once? Or was I supposed to pick?) and gather together a number of different things, like photos of 50’s film stars, photos of my family and homework (seriously?)

In the end all of this was unnecessary for the event itself – I’m just thankful I wasn’t in the group that was asked to bring along home-grown fruits and veg!

When you add together the cost of the tickets, booking fees, transport, all the little things they say you MUST bring and the cost of any food and drink once you’re in (and in the BttF event’s case, if you wanted to play any games or go on one of the rides) the price per person shoots up from £55 to (potentially) over £130.

So it’s no wonder Secret Cinema grossed earnings similar to that of an actual nationwide cinematic release, they even saved on paying the `actors` by recruiting them as volunteers.

This year the company has expanded even further in its business by not only opening shops that ticket holders are repeated encouraged to buy, but by opening a night club as well.

All of these things are additional to the ticket price, of course.

I realise I have been pretty harsh on Secret Cinema, what business DOESN’T set out to make money and increase their profits year on year?

I honestly did enjoy my evening out in Hill Valley last year – I bought the tickets as a special 30th birthday present for my sister and we walked out at the end of the night still giddy from watching the show, loudly exclaiming about how enjoyable it was to see a film with `pop out` scenes happening around us.

We were never bored during our time there, although we did bemoan how the sheer amount of people attending meant we had missed out on a lot of what had gone on around us.

Dancing at the Prom held in the High School gave the evening a bit of a shakeup – it was a lot of fun to dance around and swish our big 50’s style dresses about – and we ended up on the American style school bus, throwing paper out the windows and becoming part of the parade.

It was a shame that some of the photos from the (£5 – forgot to add THAT expense to my estimate) disposable camera didn’t come out, I was mostly sad about the one of us standing by the Welcome to Hill Valley sign, but running around and clicking away until we ran out of film was a cool (if not slightly frustrating) reminder of how big events like this used to be less about taking the perfect shot of some artfully posed food and then picking the filter and more about being in the moment and making memories.

Over all, the best part about Secret Cinema was the film itself rather than the setting and the volunteers walking around. It gave us a new way to enjoy something we’d seen time and time again and we appreciated the film even more for it.

Now the Star Wars event promises to be even bigger, even better and even MORE interactive than anything they’ve ever done before.

Yes, I’m annoyed that I had to spend my lunch break running around trying to find REDACTED piece of REDACTED in order to look like a REDCATED. And yeah, I’m wondering just HOW important those REDACTED are going to be to my being able to REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED.

I’m still looking forward to going to the event, like, stupidly excited. I LOVE Star Wars, I love getting to dress up and play along and seeing films in the way Secret Cinema shows them gives everything an excited, thrilling feeling – even if you’ve seen the film hundreds of times, seeing it this way makes it all new again!

My spoiler free review of the event itself will be up on Sunday the 14th of June! May the Force be with You and remember to #TellNoOne. You can get tickets to this event by going to www.secretcinema.org/tickets

GS BLOGGER: Fia @madame_fifi


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