Chiswick Cinema celebrates its first birthday

Great films, comfy seats and a few teething problems …

Chiswick Cinema is celebrating its first birthday. The first year, opening in the teeth of the pandemic, designing a booking system which distanced groups who booked together from each other, finding and retaining staff, has been a struggle.

But they have survived and, dare I say it, are now beginning to thrive, programming not just a diet of blockbusters and new releases but some old favourites, some surprises, seasons of films, Q&As with famous actors and directors and a regular film quiz.

This week it’s party time, with special events for founder members on Thursday and for everyone else on Saturday.

Image above: Brian and Charles, winner of the Sundance Film Festival Nominee Grand Jury Prize

Party time at Chiswick Cinema

On Thursday 23 June manager Kathryn Smith and her staff will say thank you to all those who put money in at the beginning, to enable them to get the project off the ground.

The cinema will close at 5pm. It will be available for exclusively for the original Founder Members plus a small selection of VIPs from Trafalgar Entertainment and the cinema, theatre industries to see a choice of four preview films, with drinks and nibbles:

  • The Princess – Princess Diana’s story is told exclusively through contemporaneous archive ‘creating a bold and immersive narrative of her life and death’
  • Nitram – Events leading up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre on Tasmania in an attempt to understand why and how the atrocity occurred (CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 Best Actor Winner, Palme D’Or Nominee)
  • Brian and Charles – After a particularly harsh winter Brian goes into a deep depression; completely isolated and with no one to talk to, Brian does what any sane person would do when faced with such a melancholic situation. He builds a robot (Sundance Film Festival Nominee Grand Jury Prize)
  • It snows in Benidorm – Peter has worked all his life at a Manchester bank. When he is awarded an early retirement, he decides to visit his brother in Benidorm, only to discover that he’s disappeared (Goya Best Director Nominee)

“The films are handpicked by myself and Kathryn to showcase the breadth of experiences available at Chiswick Cinema” says marketing executive Chris Parker. “We are proud to be at the forefront of cinema exhibition.

“So many people were not able to be there when we opened, because of Covid, it will be a chance to have a proper party.”

Image above: Adam Butler as Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s new biopic

£5 tickets for all

On Saturday 25 June they would like to make a big point of the fact that you do not have to be a member to see films at the cinema. Tickets will be £5 all day for any film, including the Elvis film only just released, Emma Thompson’s new film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and Top Gun, Maverick, the latest Tom Cruise blockbuster.

There will also be a discount of 10% off food and drink all day.

Image above: Jurassic Park: Dominion

A tough first year

It has been tough for the new cinema. It was so eagerly anticipated and so long in coming to fruition. There have been rumblings from founder members about teething problems: the computer booking system not working properly for a long time, the founders bar not always being open, the menu being a bit odd and most of all, no way of phoning up and complaining!

Running a cinema will always be difficult and it will never be possible to please everyone – some love that you can buy a meal and have it served to you in the cinema, while others hate it – and Chiswick folk are notoriously picky. In the restaurant industry we are legend. It is said that if you can run a successful restaurant in Chiswick you can run one anywhere.

But for the first time Kathryn and Chris feel they have their heads above water. They are no longer constantly fire-fighting (mixed metaphors I know – why would you be fire-fighting under water?!)

They can look beyond the day to day issues and do a bit of strategic planning, building relationships in the community and welcoming in local organisations such as the West London Queer Group for a Pride season, Abundance London for the launch of their Jubilee art project and Chiswick Book Festival in September.

READ ALSO: Chiswick’s Pride festival

READ ALSO: Jubilee ‘stamps’ go on show

They have begun to programme events which bring significant added value to a trip to the movies, such as the Downton Abbey evening, with several of the cast, producer, designer and director taking questions from the audience after a screening of the new film and the Vangelis evening, with director Tony Palmer talking about the Greek composer of music for films such as Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner after a screening of his documentary.

READ ALSO: If ever there were a Chiswick film this is it: Downton Abbey – The New Era

READ ALSO: Jonathan Legard interviews director Tony Palmer at the Chiswick Cinema about composer Vangelis, who died recently

A few founder members have decide not to renew, but most, who paid up handsomely at the beginning of the project in 2019 and waited patiently for the cinema to be built, delayed by Covid, then muttered darkly about irksome issues, have stuck with it and are now looking forward to enjoying the benefits.

Kathryn has upgraded the Founder Members offer to include unlimited tickets and free meals on their birthday. A few Founder Memberships have become available, but says Chris, they are being snapped up fast.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Andrea’s Film Reviews – weekly reviews by film maker Andrea Carnevali

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