In praise of tiny cinemas (UK’s Top 10)

By Patrick von Sychowski | January 31, 2008 2:25 am PST

London’s The Guardian has an interesting article by its film critic Peter Bradshaw singing the praise of small cinemas. Really small cinemas. Think less than a 100 seats.

It’s only since doing this job that my small cinema experience has been revived. Professional film critics and movie writers are the last breed of cinema-goers who regularly go to small cinemas. These are the tiny 30-seaters in Soho, in central London: special screening theatres that show films in advance to journalists. Now, there used to be many such cinemas in this part of the capital, showing their films to an oddly similar, ahem, demographic. Porn cinemas.

The article also has a Top Ten of the greatest small cinemas in the UK, which includes an old student favourite of mine, namely The Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford:

Open since 1912 and in its current guise since 1996, the Palace is a cosy, musty, atmospheric favourite with both locals and students. A mix of second-run features, cult films, late showings and classics ensures a loyal following. “We’re like a cross between an arthouse and a grindhouse cinema,” says owner Saied Marham. “We’re not the most modern building – and when you come here you have to suspend your disbelief. But we let the films speak for themselves. We do things differently and show all kinds of films; we might take a modern film like Atonement and show it alongside an exploitation film.

Interestingly I recently met an entrepreneurial Australian living in the UK who has proved that you can operate a 98-seat cinema in a semi-rural location exclusively with 2K DCI-grade digital cinema equipment (no 35mm) and make it profitable. More about that in a later post.

Patrick von Sychowski
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