Quality Cinema - Greenwich Picturehouse

Nigel Watson

Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk






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We all wonder what we would do if we won the lottery or had a multi-million pound windfall. Besides the obvious choice of a better, bigger home and a fleet of luxury cars, any film fan would want their own cinema. Here you could enjoy your own selection of films without the annoyance of late-comers shuffling into their seats and the continuous crunching of pop corn and slurping of cola throughout the auditorium.

Greenwich PicturehouseSince such riches elude most of us, you can still indulge such dreams at the Greenwich Picturehouse, 180 Greenwich High Road, South London, SE10 8NN. The venue is designed and operated by City Screen Ltd, the people responsible for the The Ritzy, Clapham Picturehouse and The Gate cinemas. Even before its doors opened, in September 2005, over 1,000 people signed to become members of this cinema.

In the past, mainstream, mainly Hollywood blockbuster movies have had specicially dedicated multiplex cinemas to show them in an environment that best suits their target audiences. In other words they are mainly built for young people who want somewhere of their own to go to and socialise. Or as Jancovich and Faire put it more eloquently:

'Cultural distinction ranks not only films, but also the places within which they are consumed. As a result, the multiplex itself has been consumed differently by different social groups, due to the ways in which it has been associated with specific types of cultural consumption. Most obviously, the multiplex frequently figures as a place of mass and undifferentiated consumption as opposed to the art cinema, which figures as a place of diversity and distinction.' ('The best place to see a film: the blockbuster, the multiplex, and the contexts of consumption' by Mark Jancovich and Lucy Faire, p.199. In, Movie Blockbusters edited by Julian Stringer, Routledge, 2003.)
Certainly cinemas have come a long way since the days when I used to go to the Roxy in Ashby, Scunthorpe. Like most cinemas of the 1960s it had small tilting seats that had old chewing gum plastered underneath them. It doubled as a bingo hall and was eventually turned into a pub - The Malt Shovel. Yet, art house audiences have generally been served in old cinemas that have been dropped by the main cinema chains and struggle on with the aid of volunteers and grants. This is changing with the likes of the Greenwich Picturehouse where there is a blend of luxury surroundings and a programme of diverse films that suits all tastes.

A spokesperson for the new cinema told us that: “Feedback has been absolutely phenomenal and people have been excited by our plans and realised that they should be able to expect more from a trip to the cinema – it’s not just seeing a film, it’s a whole evening out.

“All of the screens have armchair-width, luxurious, chenille-upholstered, reclining seats with extended legroom and the screens are all licensed so that customers can enjoy a drink while they are watching the best in quality mainstream and cultural cinema.

Greenwich Picturehouse.“In addition we have the bar, café and restaurant facilities that will allow people to use the Picturehouse as a meeting place where they can come for something to eat or drink, chat about movies, or enjoy some live music or comedy.

One of the things that has created the biggest buzz at the Picturehouse is the development of a luxury private screening room, which has seen substantial investment to give it its own private bar, food and event facilities.”

On the afternoon of 7 January 2006 we at Talking Pictures had the opportunity to enjoy the facilities of the private screening room, which is in the basement of the building. Going there by car I was worried about finding a suitable parking space - Greenwich is usually very crowded as it has many tourist attractions. Fortunately, there is pay and display car parking nearby and I easily found a space. The cinema is a central location in Greenwich and is very easy to get to by rail and bus transport, or you can even get there by ferry on the nearby Thames.

We viewed the John Hughes film Trains, Planes and Automobiles. This stars Steve Martin and John Candy who are forced by circumstances to travel together so that they can get home to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. I could have chosen a more serious and 'worthy' film but I wanted to select something that was enjoyable - especially in the depressing post-Christmas period. I saw the film years ago on TV and it was much better to see it on the big screen with a booming sound system. The huge, armchair-like, chenille-upholstered, seats in the screening room are the height of luxury. You just sink in to them and you could easy watch a 5-hour epic without the usually danger of leg cramps or any other physical discomfort. Indeed, you feel very reluctant to get out of their comforting embrace.

Alan Pavelin.Besides the delights of the screening room's physical comfort  and the film itself, it was a good opportunity to meet fellow contributors to Talking Pictures. Since most of this site is produced via email and online, and I have moved out of London to the far-flung attractions of Plymouth, there have been very few opportunities to actually meet contributors and supporters of Talking Pictures face-to-face. The last official Talking Pictures event was held at the Croydon Clocktower about ten years ago! So it was great to finally meet Alan Pavelin who has been a regular contributor to Talking Pictures since he was introduced to us by Jaap Mees many years ago.

Nick Pope.Also, in attendance at the event was Nick Pope who is a world-famous UFO writer and investigator. He is the author of The Uninvited that examines the alien abduction experience. It is his view that there is evidence of alien intervention in human affairs but there is no absolute proof. He was in charge of  the Ministry of Defence's UFO department and he has continued to take an active interest in this subject. He has gained a reputation as an expert who can articulately express the case for the belief in UFO visitations. After the screening we had the opportunity to discuss how the media deals with UFOs and how you have to negotiate their interests with those you want to express. Very often he is called at short notice to write about the subject for newspapers or to appear on a TV programme so you have very little time to prepare for them. In addition, these outlets have their own agenda. TV in particular is more interested in entertainment (or if we are to be less polite, sensation) and wants people who can engage with and stimulate their audience. Along the way facts are disposable for the sake of a good story. Being trained in how to deal with the media Nick knows what the media wants and how to negotiate with it to put across his own views. Being more of a sceptic I have written a critique of his Uninvited book in an article titled The Uninvited and the Unlikely. Despite our ufological differences it was good to meet him and the rest of our Talking Pictures contributors and correspondents.

Throughout the building the bar and restaurant facilities at the Picturehouse are excellent and give the opportunity to meet and talk movies in a convivial environment. Certainly if you want to feel like a millionaire it is worth booking the basement screening room, where you can enjoy a film of your choice with your friends and family in chenille-upholstered comfort. Its a memorable treat and you don't have to be a lottery winner to wallow in this cinematic dream.

For more details about the Greenwich Picturehouse visit:    www.picturehouses.co.uk

Nick Pope's website can be viewed at: http://www.nickpope.net/
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