Tag Archives: Cinemas

Whine On You Crazy Diamond: The Electric Cinema

Firstly, I want to apologise for this week’s blog being a few days late. Well, a week and a few days late. I know it’s an absolute no-no to blog about how you’ve been too busy in your ‘real life’ to blog, but that’s probably on the same list of rules that include “don’t name a column after a weak pun about an album that’s older than most of your readers” so I’m clearly a serial rule-breaker.

So yeah, I’ve been busy. Thankfully, I’ve also had time to watch some films and write up some reviews for the site, which along with some brilliant pieces from some of my favourite contributors has led to the most successful week in the site’s very short history. So thanks!

This week’s blog is a nice and easy one to write. It’s a simple recommendation based on the most delightful experience I had at the cinema yesterday. Sadly the film I watched was very disappointing, and if I had seen it in a bog-standard multiplex, or even the lovely, but familiar surroundings of my local arts centre I would have written an even angrier review. Luckily for my sanity I had chosen to watch it at The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, the UK’s oldest working cinema.

The Electric is located just a couple of minutes’ walk from New Street, and houses two screens (with the largest of the two accessible to wheelchair users). The old-school ticket booth on your right as you enter took me back to a time I probably never really experienced. I wasn’t visiting a cinema from my youth; I was visiting a cinema that I had seen on-screen in my youth. Even my ticket was one of those tiny little stubs that sadly these days are reserved for booths exchanging them for tacky gifts on a seaside pier.

My standard seating ticket was a reasonable £7, although I was very tempted by the fantastic-looking sofa seating with waiter service for £12.80. If I hadn’t been on my own, I’m sure I would have splashed out. Concessions are priced at a budget £4.80 (including evenings and weekends), and in a nice touch the unwaged are also eligible for this price. The person who served me was friendly, polite, and seemed to genuinely care that I enjoyed the film. Good customer service costs nothing, and can make such a difference.

One inside the screen, and after being allowed to take my gin and tonic (Bombay Sapphire at just £2.50 a measure!) in a real glass with me, I settled in to a slightly rickety chair, with worn armrests, and not too much in the way of legroom. And I didn’t care – in fact loved it. It just felt like a cinema should. The projection was also perfectly handled. In short, I wish I could watch every film for the rest of my life here.

I’m even tempted to make the one hour journey from Leicester for one of their special events in the future. For example, earlier this month they hosted an evening of wine and film with a showing of Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love, and hosted by The Wine Tasting Company – who paused the film “at opportune moments to take audience members through six excellent red and white wines from different regions of Italy”. Now that is the kind of interruption and consumption of drinks I can get on board with.

If you’re ever stuck for a few hours in Birmingham with time to kill, I cannot recommend visiting this cinema highly enough. Even if you see a poor film, you’l still have a great time.

Please note – I was not asked to write about The Electric Cinema, and I paid for my ticket and refreshments.


This week’s viewing:

DVD – There’s a number of big releases out on DVD this week, but the best of them in my humble opinion is Brave – Pixar’s first ever film with a female lead. It’s not as out-and-out funny as some of the studio’s other releases, but it is the perfect marriage of Pixar’s wonderful visuals and a classic Disney fairytale-style narrative.

TV – The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Sunday 2nd Dec, 3.05pm, Film4. The perfect film to have on as you dig out old decorations, untangle what feels like three miles of fairy lights, and deck your halls with bowls of holly etc. A retelling of Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) and his bah humbug approach to the festive season. May contain loveable puppets.

Lovefilm Instant  – Easy A (2010). Brand new to Lovefilm Instant, Emma Stone stars as a high school girl who sees her life echoing Hester Prynne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and decides to manipulate the school’s rumour mill to improve her lot in life. Clever teen comedy also starring Stanley Tucci, Lisa Kurow, and Malcolm McDowell.

Netflix UK – 21 Jump Street (2012). One of the biggest surprises this year was not how genuinely funny this reboot of a long-forgotten 80s TV show was (it really is), but that Channing Tatum had a performance like this in him – out-funnying Jonah Hill no less.

Behind the Screens: Return to Energiser

At some point most of us have dreamed of working in a cinema. Being able to watch as many films as you like, and your customers are quiet and in the dark for most of their time with you. Then we grow up and the dream dies.

However, a select few get to live out that dream,and in the first of a news series Matt Lambourne desribes his time on the other side of the silver screen…

As part of my regular contributions to FailedCritic.com I shall be writing a short series on my experiences of working on the other side of the movie industry, as part of a cinema chain itself.

Before you pipe in with excellent original jokes about Hot Dog flipping and Popcorn dispensary, I’d like to point out that I only did that for one week before engaging on a five-year career with one of the UK’s biggest cinema chains from the age of 16, until shortly after my 21st birthday.

Let’s start at the beginning. I was a waste of space at High School; I had literally no idea what I wanted to do for my work experience, let alone my eventual career. After being rejected for work experience by Woolworths (don’t ask), I had to think long and hard about what I fancied doing. As I enjoy going to ‘the pictures’ as my dear old mum used to call it, I decided to take up my work experience at the local multiplex.

I didn’t get to do anything terribly exciting – I was mostly ushered people into the correct screen, checking their tickets, making sure no one sneaked in etc. When there were gaps in performance starting times I’d get to sit in and watch a movie or two as long as it wasn’t an 18 certificate. Generally it was very boring and I didn’t make it through the second week, I decided to just take a couple of days off at home instead of going to work or school.

With that in mind, it was quite remarkable when I turned up back at the same cinema chain almost a year to the day later for a job interview, albeit at the Contact Centre, rather than the cinema itself. Luckily they had no idea who I was and my brief flirtation in cinema work was somewhat (I say that very loosely) advantageous.

Thus began a five year career in this cinema’s Contact Centre, firstly as a telephone booking agent during the ultra busy advance reservation period for Star Wars: Episode I and progressing into Team Leadership roles and eventually becoming a supervisor for the team managing the day to day content updating of their then fledgling website.

I’ll be writing a few tales and insider secrets, so you have a rough idea of what goes on beyond hot-dogs, nachos and the tearing of ticket-stubs. For my first piece, I’d like to reminisce about a particularly odd occurrence. Allow me to tell you a little about our building.

It’s part of the city’s major leisure complex in Stoke-on-Trent, which contained the cinema (10 screens), pool hall, and a bowling alley  on the ground floor. Our contact centre was located on the upper floor of this complex, adjoining one interesting business in particular…

This particular day I was in charge of the supervisors desk, I was assigning break times to staff, dealing with escalated customer queries and handling the security mechanisms for the electronic doors which allowed people into our building. In regards to the latter, I had a couple of cameras with various views of the main door to the Contact Centre, people would hit a buzzer when they arrived and the supervisor on duty would remotely open the door to let them in.

This was a day in-day out,many times per day chore and was dull, very dull! But this one day, something very interesting happened. The door buzzed and I peek at the camera and to my surprise I see a short figure, covered in body armour and flashing lights! I pick up the inter-com to speak to this stranger from the future..

Me – “Hello?!?”

Him – “Err, hello?”

Me – “This is the door to the *** Contact Centre, who are you?”

Him – “I’m lost! *sniff sniff *, I was looking for the Energiser!”

Me – “Energiser?”

Him – “This thing, it’s telling me to return to Energiser!”

At this point I finally clicked what was going on. There was a door adjacent to the entry to our Contact Centre, which connected us to Quasar, the laser gun game! This door as it turns out was a fire/emergency exit from the game arena and our poor kid had managed to get lost on his way back to the energiser.

As I’m not authorised to bring this kid into our complex I make my way to the door to escort this tiny kid out of our buidling, who looks like a cross between Jean-Claude Van Damme in Universal Solider and Koko-B-Ware! I get to the door and the kid is literally sobbing, I take him for a short walk around the inside of the leisure complex to the backdoor of the building where our staff enter and walk him around the complex to the front door to Quasar. The poor lad is being pointed at and laughed at as he’s crying in front of people, dressed in bright orange body armour and a poor man’s replica pulse rifle!

I tell the staff at Quasar what happened and they presumably get him back into the game and I went back to the grindstone, rather happy with this unusual happenstance, which has broken up my day!

I hope you enjoyed this first peek Behind the Screens, and in the next part of the series we’ll be exploring perks of the job (including free video games!) and an introduction to Mrs. Batman!

Matt – Matt’s voyage into cinema began via work experience at aged 15 as an usher which lead to a natural progression into Cinema Contact Centre busy body. Being able to see new movies for free and having 100% disposable income to blow meant a lot of bad DVDs were bought and thus created a monster.

Matt enjoys anything with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it and more obscure titles, as being from Stoke; he’s too posh for the mainstream.