It’s no secret that the giant cinema chains are expensive. Even so, it may shock you to find out that if you fancy buying a small bag of popcorn at Cineworld you will be paying 15 times the price it is actually worth. We happily sit through tons of adverts and put up with that one annoying viewer who insists on talking throughout only to emerge from the cinema two hours later, distinctly underwhelmed by the generic horror movie sequel or adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel that we just paid £10 to watch. Is it any wonder that online piracy is such a problem when trips to the cinema are more insipid than inspiring?
“sitting in the cinematic equivalent of a cheerless aircraft hangar amid the stench of stale popcorn just won’t cut it anymore”
Call it nostalgia, but despite the high prices and cheap-tasting food, there is still something exciting about going to the cinema to watch a film, a certain magic that is lacking from an evening hunched around a laptop to watch a pixelated copy of the latest box-office hit. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where you could go to watch a genuinely interesting film and still have plenty of change from a ten pound note? Step forward the independent cinema.
First of all let me dispel any preconceptions you may have that independent cinemas only show foreign films and cult horror movies. The fact that these establishments are not answerable to major film distributors means that they have free reign over what they choose to show and therefore you can expect to watch anything from the latest indie release to a cult classic to a live stream of a theatre production. In fact the only thing that these showings seem to have in common is that all the films are genuinely interesting. A film that has the power to change perceptions or even just to provoke thought is a film worth watching and this seems to be the philosophy behind the growing number of independent cinemas that have been springing up across the UK since the early 70s.
As the number of people choosing to take a trip to the cinema dwindles, it is becoming clear that cinema chains will do all they can to get bums on seats. The focus for these giants is no longer on the film itself but the profit that can be made. This means scrimping on food, cleanliness and, apparently, decent chairs. The success of a cinema trip can be instantly gauged from the comfiness of the chair and the likelihood is that you will not be disappointed when you visit your local independent. These establishments realise that ‘going to the pictures’ needs to be an experience in itself, and sitting in the cinematic equivalent of a cheerless aircraft hangar amid the stench of stale popcorn just won’t cut it anymore. The typical number of seats in an independent cinema auditorium is 200-230 compared with over 1400 in some Odeon auditoriums. Having smaller cinemas means that they are easier to maintain, they are less likely to smell of hotdogs, and, most importantly, there are fewer distractions from the film itself. You can relax in your comfy chair and completely immerse yourself in the movie you have paid to watch.
Independent cinemas are often housed within arts centres such as Manchester’s Cornerhouse or Broadway in Nottingham, many of which have recently been redeveloped in order to boost the presence of arts in the community. Independents have grown in popularity because they are small enough to actually care about what they do. This means reasonable ticket prices, good food and enthusiastic staff. It makes all the difference!
If you’re reasonably new to the charms of Cardiff, you may not have ventured far outside of the city centre. So, this is the bit where I encourage you to go exploring and find Chapter Arts, Cardiff’s very own gallery, theatre, community venue, cafe, bar and independent cinema. Situated in Canton (just West of the city centre), Chapter houses two screens and shows a huge variety of films, this winter’s offering ranging from code-cracking biopic The Imitation Game to a sing-a-long screening of Frozen. It is clear Chapter have given real thought to the experience of going to the cinema and so you can always be sure that you will be getting your money’s worth. Tickets are cheaper on Tuesdays, and if you sign up for their free ‘Friends With Benefits’ student card, you will qualify for concessions on film tickets and 10% off food and drink (and yes, this includes alcohol).
In order to celebrate different cinematic genres, Chapter often hosts seasons such as
‘Sci-Fi’ and ‘Children in Film’ where films that represent the title theme are shown back to back with chances to participate in related activities such as post-screening lectures. There is no target audience for independents such as this one. In fact the only thing that the 800,000 visitors per year have in common is their willingness to try something different. Visit Chapter’s cafe and you will not find it overrun with Mac users sporting quirky facial hair, or whatever creative stereotype you had in mind, but bustling with families, students, friends, couples and everyone else who wants excellent food and drink at reasonable prices in a relaxed setting. With independent cinemas constantly increasing in popularity, we are lucky to have one of the UK’s leading arts centres on our doorstep. Whether you’re looking for an alternative night out with your flatmates or somewhere to impress your parents with how high-brow you’ve become, Chapter is the perfect destination.
To mark the new year, Quench Film & TV are launching ‘The Next Chapter’ a new online section where you will be able to find information about what is going on at our favourite local independent cinema, Chapter Arts.