Photo Diary: Secret Cinema

Monday June 21st 2010

Twitter was abuzz last week with excited chatter about a new Secret Cinema event. If you’re not familiar with Secret Cinema, the basic concept is that a group of people go to a secret location (usually an unlikely setting for cinemagoing) and watch a previously unannounced film. Their latest event was running throughout the week and I remembered that I’d been offered tickets a couple of months earlier.

On the day of the event, we were told to assemble in Canary Wharf with neon clothing and goggles.

Understandably, most of their film choices are fairly safe (they’re trying to please hundreds of people after all) so I wasn’t surprised to read a lot of Blade Runner-themed hints on Twitter. If there was any doubt left in my mind, the speakers pictured above were blasting out warnings about ‘replicants’ so that pretty much put an end to any ambiguity.

For a while, I was almost certain that this man was Harrison Ford. He wasn’t.

By the time I went on the Thursday, the City workers had already been watching this happen each day for the past three. They looked weary.

There were literally hundreds of actors running about, dressed as air hostesses, armed police, journalists and general weirdos. The woman above was particularly good, putting a lot of work into her ‘character’ even when it seemed like nobody was watching.

The fake police began to lead us towards our mysterious destination. From the photo above it looks like there were only half a dozen people there but that’s just because I am SO FUCKING IMPORTANT that I was right at the front.

Real police even leant a hand when the group had to cross a big road. Taxpayers money etc. etc. …

Suddenly, a group of men ran out of a building and shouted at us to put our goggles on. There had been a change of plan, they informed us.

We were taken to an abandoned industrial estate, and along the way we began to encounter more strange people. The ‘prostitute’ above offered us a ride on her bicycle, although the whole thing would have been slightly more realistic if it hadn’t been a Barclay’s rent-a-bike.

Here are some little people smashing up a car.

This man tried to sell us a mattress.

I don’t know what’s going on here.

Once we finally arrived, we were welcomed into a massive warehouse filled with exciting things. There were sexy ladies with snakes, just like Blade Runner; and a fully-operational China Town, just like Blade Runner; and the whole thing was sponsered by Windows Phone, just like Blade Runner.

We had a look around everything and then went out to the large waiting area. We bought some incredibly expensive beer and then hung around near the cinema entrance, assuming the movie would start in half an hour or so. NEARLY TWO HOURS LATER, we went in.

After even more waiting, the film finally started up and the audience quietened down. To be honest, they might as well have talked straight through it because the sound was so shit you could barely decipher the dialogue. Surely things couldn’t get any worse, or could they?

If you’ve seen Blade Runner, you’ll know that there’s a very significant emotional climax towards the end. At this precise moment during the screening, the organisers of Secret Cinema decided to illuminate two spotlights in the makeshift auditorium, revealing two actors suspended on wires by the far right wall. They were mimicking the poses of the two characters on screen. Heads turned. The audience applauded. The ‘tears in rain’ speech went unheard. The film was ruined.

Given that I get annoyed by overzealous ‘Emergency Exit’ signage, you can imagine my reaction.

Did I mention tickets normally cost £23.50?

Fuck this shit.