Sunday, June 17News For London

The uniqueness of Regent Street cinema

The entrance to Regent Street Cinema [Photo credit: Tom Ladle]

Away from the bustling streets of Oxford Circus lies a quiet independent cinema, Regent Street cinema. The cinema prides itself on giving its audience an insight into film history and giving a platform to foreign and independent films, that are not screened elsewhere. 80 percent of cinemas in the UK are now multiplexes, making the originality of Regent Street cinema attractive.

Shira Macleod, director of the cinema, has extensive experience in the programming of films. She said: “I go and see a lot of films and my background is in choosing film, I like to screen older and unusual films.”

“We are not part of a chain allowing us to make unique and independent choices. Our cinema has a Compton organ, we are one of the only cinemas that screen silent films with live audio.”

Shira Macleod with her 16mm projector [Photo credit: Shira Macleod]
Regent Street cinema is one of only two cinemas in the UK to use the traditional 16mm film reel. 16 mm is the original format for shooting film, a way for the cinema to pay homage to the origins of filmmaking.

The origins of film are important to the cinema. It is described as the ‘birthplace of British cinema’. It was the first cinema in the UK to screen a moving image, ‘Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat’ created by the Lumière-brothers, on 20th February 1896. The cinema was restored and re-opened by the University of Westminster in May 2015. The restoration helped modernise the cinema, without jeopardising the legacy.

The history of the cinema is one of the factors that attracts an audience. Robert Chapman, 52, said: “I am a huge fan of film history, this cinema allows me to indulge in that history.”

“The screenings themselves create an intimate atmosphere.”

“Personally I had much more of an experience at this cinema, compared to commercial cinemas. I simply would not be able to see the films I see here at the bigger cinemas.”

Regent Street cinemas Compton organ [Photo credit: Organic-publicity]
As well as the important role history plays for the cinema, they also place importance on the screening of independent films. Many of the films screened are independent. The cinema uses its history to give a platform to many older and foreign films. The cinema hosts many film festivals and works with various communities in London. They plan to host a Polish film festival.

Regent Street Cinema’s focus on independent films means many of the screenings directly involve the filmmakers and the cast. Many of the screenings include a Q&A element, enabling the audience to interact with individuals involved in the production of the film. The cinema’s association with the University of Westminster means it does not exclusively screen films. The cinema also hosts lectures and events. Last Friday one of the events hosted was a conference with the National Space Agency, an event unique to Regent Street cinema.

Regent Street cinemas screening board [Photo credit: Tom Ladle]
Regent Street cinema differs from commercial cinemas through the way films are screened. The cinema shows its films on a second-run basis. The focus is making money out of each individual film, rather than the same film repeated. Commercial cinemas work on a first-run basis. Mainstream films have to be played in as many slots as possible, for at least a week.

Macleod said: “In an ideal world hopefully the choice of films will make it different.” The legacy of Regent Street cinema distinguishes it from any other cinema in London and provides its audience with a unique experience.

Regent Street cinemas historic theatre [Photo credit: Organic-publicity]
(Subbed by Thomas Joa)