London is the film capital of the UK. You just spend five minutes in Leicester Square to realise cinematic gold lurks behind the walls of the Odeons and the Empires. Unfurling red carpets and sashaying celebrities are a weekly common occurrence, cheering film fans and illustrious press all grappling to be a part of the Capital's lucrative and bustling industry. Not only this but film studios and offices are just moments away, always churning out the latest big screen art and promoting as much as they can the creatives waiting to be exposed to the world. London is a massive and wonderful city to produce cinematic treats so it’s no wonder some of the nation’s best cinemas linger there with similar passion.
One such cinema is the Cineworld in Haymarket.
On a lazy summers day, where gaggles of schoolchildren gather in the M&M store and tourists keep their noses in their maps, filling up the usual attractions that London have to off, I am covering up (gladly) from the sun in one of the best cinemas that’s just a stones throw away from Piccadilly Circus. This lucky film journalist has just managed to score an interview with the guys behind Cineworld’s best cinema and I’m thrilled to be steeped in the historical building, adorned with purple and red walls. Meeting up with their social media guru, David Stevenson, the gang are setting up for a lovely quiet day. “It’s fairly quiet this time of year,” says Stevenson as we sip on burning black coffee at the bar and listen to funky soul music as people bustle around us. “All the attention is on the blockbuster movies; Guardians of the Galaxy, Hercules and that sort of thing. We’re fine with that as October is when it really kicks off.”
He’s not wrong. If you’ve spent a minute in the film industry (or even a cinema) you’ll realise that there has been a yearly schedule. Whilst the gun tooting, fighting movies of September through to February is award and festival season, the smell of arthouse is only a month away. “Usually the BFI London Film Festival is a great indicator on what we’re going to get,” continues Stevenson as we talk about the upcoming announcements of The Imitation Game and more that should be heading their way, “we’re not worried about the lack of customers as our time is coming and we’ll get a bigger boom.”
Having a chain dedicate a whole cinema to the alternative films is an admirable thing and indicates a massive change in the film industry. While audiences have consistently attended big blockbuster screenings and certain movies fell away from that scope, a lot more people are venturing out to see unusual and indie flicks. “There is much more of a call for now,” David says, “movies such as Under The Skin offer that opening into the world and spark more interest, leading them to another and another.”
Of course, a lot more mainstream stars such as Scarlett Johansson helming your movie (despite the fact that everyone should know Jonathon Glazer’s work) has fused the two sides of cinema together. “Yeah, it really pulls the audiences in,” David continues after we enjoyed a rather heated discussion on how amazing Glazer is, “the curiosity is there. For example, if Luc Besson made Lucy with anyone else it wouldn’t have that buzz around it and now it’s one of the most anticipated films of this year.”
“We get a lot of people here for the National Theatre Live screenings too,” he continues. The crossover between artistic mediums is certainly a rather exciting climate nowadays. “People who previously couldn’t afford theatre tickets or missed out on shows such as Frankenstein can still enjoy it every Halloween.” And in this golden age of television, people are yearning for the likes of Doctor Who to grace the massive screens. “It means things are more accessible.”
Which is interesting that he brings that up, the people behind Haymarket seem like hardworking and passionate people about cinema. One too many times customer experience really affects your enjoyment of a cinema. One too many times I’ve gone bounding into a cinema, excited about a movie and received a few grunts and sniffs. But not here. “It helps that we are all in the industry or trying to make it,” says David “and it helps we all love cinema. Because we are smaller, we can talk to people about the film and get regulars in. That really helps us with customers that added interaction. You know, we all have our bad days though. I can get if I am getting thousands of people in, I’d get grouchy.”
And Haymarket are really smart with their Twitter and Facebook accounts. “From the word go, we didn’t want it to be purely about ‘what are we showing and when,’ we wanted to connect with the audiences and let them in to our movie world so they can see we love films.”
This is one of the reasons why I am here, because of their wonderful interaction with their regulars. Haymarket Cineworld isn’t just a random number on a chain, churning out numbers. The company have slowed down and created an experience. A lot of the best films need to be screened here. Gravity on Screen One, Under The Skin in Screen Two, Begin Again in Screen Three. Here is an enriching trip to the cinema. You’ll be overcome by the architecture and the people in the wings. People like David who truly love where they work and what they do. This is truly a cinema to invest your time in.
Hey, you’ll probably find me there too, living like the Phantom of the Opera, haunting the screens and adoring film.