People think that I spend most of my free time at the cinema. Having studied film and having worked in film festivals and events since my university days, people think I am in a different cinema every weekend. Actually, the opposite is true. Because I value my free time, I’m picky about how I spend it. And although I do often visit the cinema, I’m picky about the cinemas I choose to spend time in. In fact, there aren’t many cinemas that I’ve missed during lockdown.
Except maybe one. Pictureville cinema.
Because it is more to me than just a space. It’s been with me throughout my entire career in film exhibition. We’ve been friends for almost ten years.
Our relationship started back in 2011 when I started working at the National Science and Media Museum as Festivals Assistant. I remember stepping into Pictureville cinema for the first time; I thought it was quite nice, that it was comfy and warm, and that the way the seats spread out in front of the screen meant you could always get a good view. But that was it.
It wasn’t until the next year that our relationship grew into something more special, when I helped deliver Widescreen Weekend—the museum’s annual festival of big, bold cinema experiences. Experiencing Cinerama for the first time, in an empty auditorium during testing, gave me goosebumps. Those images expanded across a curved screen are still with me now, and the fact that Pictureville is one of only three cinemas in the world where you can see Cinerama, emphasised to me that this was something exciting. It was the first time that the venue was equally as important as the film on screen.
And since that day we’ve been through a lot together.
I’ve watched films there that have quickly become my favourite films. I’ve watched classics with like-minded people, whose laughter, sighs and gasps brought new life to them. I’ve stifled tears throughout sad films, only to turn to the person next to me and find that they too are crying into their tissue. I’ve stood at the back and watched film introductions, Q&As, presentations and panels. I’ve sat with colleagues, visitors and delegates, who over the years became great friends.
It’s also the place I’ve stolen a quiet moment during a busy festival. It’s a familiar companion when life gets a bit overwhelming. Pictureville helps me to remind myself why I love doing what I do, bringing people together in a unique place to experience a bit of escapism from their lives.
And I’m sure everyone has their own Pictureville. A place that they return to again and again. It’s the memories and the experiences that makes the venue equally as important as the film on screen.
I hope you’ll be returning to cinemas soon, because I’m sure they’ve missed you. As for me, I’ll be returning to my friend Pictureville, as I can think of no other place I’d rather be.
I hope you will join me.