Secret Cinema - THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

PrintE-mail Written by J.D. Gillam

To the uninitiated, Secret Cinema may be a hard sell.

A well-loved classic movie is announced to be shown over a number of consecutive nights in an unknown place (although the general area is advised) and very little else is divulged. To receive more information, you have to buy your ticket, which costs a lot more than your usual trip down to the local multiplex. You put a lot of trust, and money, into the idea that you are going to see something great.

We were lucky enough to be invited along to a showing of this year’s chosen classic The Empire Strikes Back and thought that you might want to know if it’s worth your considerable time and cash.

In short, yes.

Without giving any spoilers away, we can heartily recommend this year’s Secret Cinema.

If you’ve not attended one before, the idea is simple on paper. You are going to watch a film that you more than likely love, and have seen numerous times. The reason you want to pay to watch it again is brilliant.

At £75 per ticket for adults and £50 for those below 18, you may baulk at the idea, but you’re not just going to see a film. You are going to experience something astounding, a multi-sensory attack if you will. This is a once in a lifetime immersive encounter.

From the minute you arrive at your pre-advised destination in London, you are met by actors who ensure that you are on the side of the Rebel Alliance. You are then whisked into what can only be described as a mixture of theatre, pantomime and audience participation as the whole event takes five hours, inclusive of the film screening.

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to exist in the Star Wars universe, this is probably the closest that you are ever going to get. If you relax and go with the flow, you’ll get so much out of the evening that you’ll create memories that will probably stay with you forever.

You’ll get to meet characters you recognise as well as those you don’t and interact with them. You’ll see things that will make you grin like a six year old on Christmas morning. The interactivity element is inspired as you literally have to become a character in the world of the movies. You’ll be watched closely by Stormtroopers as you try to hide your identity and avoid any unnecessary Imperial entanglements and if you speak to the right people, you may even be given tasks to complete to help the Rebellion. Honestly, there is so much we would love to gush about but we really wouldn’t want to ruin any of it for you.

There are some truly epic moments that will make your jaw drop.

Usually with experiences akin to this, you can spot little things that take you out of the moment and make you realise that you’re just taking a breather from real life, but the level of detail that has gone into this is like nothing this reviewer has ever seen before. The ticket price may appear high, but you can see where the money has gone.

The event location is massive – reportedly 18 acres in size and double the size for last year’s performance of Back to the Future - and around every corner, there’s something else that will make you smile. As a collective, you and your fellow ‘travellers’ are on this adventure together and it shows. People you’ve never met before and probably won’t again suddenly become your friends and there is a strange camaraderie that springs up as you all experience the events unfolding at the same time. The screening of the film itself is almost a second thought after what you experience beforehand, but again there’s something fun about seeing a film with a bunch of like-minded people. You all quote the lines together, laugh at the same time and screw your faces up knowingly as Luke kisses Leia and that’s not even mentioning the Secret Cinema trademark of iconic scenes being played out in front of you by actors as the action unfolds on screen.

When the film finishes, the entertainment isn’t over either, with some world famous DJs spinning the decks so you can watch the surreal vision of guests dressed as Jedi and other characters strutting their stuff on the dance floor. It’s a hell of a sight when you realise that lightsaber are being used as oversized glow-sticks!

To give you an idea of the size of this year’s event, there are hundreds of actors involved, none of whom break character, and it runs for 100 nights until late September. Within the first two weeks of Secret Cinema starting, The Empire Strikes Back had managed to break back into the UK Top 10 grossing movies list.

To paraphrase Darth Vader, that’s most impressive.

So save up because, trust us, this is one movie event of this summer that you definitely shouldn’t miss!


photo: Camilla Greenwell 

SECRET CINEMA Presents STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK runs now until September 27th. http://www.secretcinema.org/tickets


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