Last night saw the opening of two new independent cinema screens in London, as the Barbican opened the doors to its swanky new Cinemas 2 & 3, complete with a ribbon cutting from Vivienne Westwood. With a cafe at street level, this development significantly ups the visibility of the art centres film offer, which has previously been notoriously hard to find.
Audiences were treated to a selection of early silent films with piano accompaniment, as well as some shorts about the Barbican centre itself, including a 1960’s documentary told in rhyming verse. Westwood then headed over to the Cinema 1 still in the basement of the main centre – to discuss her gluttonous film choice La Grande Bouffe, part of the Step Into The Dark season, where cultural folk have been choosing films relating to the Seven Deadly Sins. This weekend Michael Nyman will talk Lust with a screening of Carlos Reygada’s Silent Light.
A talking point at both events was the news of the Cineworld acquisition of the City Screen/Picturehouse chain. The announcement was met with a wave of responses on social networks, from audiences keen to voice their opinions on what this will mean to their cinema-going experience, demonstrating the depth of feeling people have for what good cinema should be. While the move dramatically increases the market share of UK screens owned by Cineworld, the news from both companies is an emphatic statement that it will be business as usual, with the Picturehouse chain maintaining its current staff, identity and programming ethos, and both companies learning from each other. With plans to open 10 more Picturehouse sites, the independent cinema sector will be watching with interest the impact it has on the business of exhibition and film culture in the UK.