Re-imagining the Silver Screen at Birmingham’s Electric Cinema

by Magdalena Nawrocka, BSc Film Production Technology student.

Is Birmingham the city of film? That might be arguable. However, it is home to one of the UK’s oldest working cinemas – The Electric. Despite how fancy and prestigious it sounds, it’s not as exclusive as it might seem.

Upon walking through the door of The Electric Cinema, a feeling of an old vintage movie theatre surrounds us from the very first step. There’s an air of tradition with a subtle touch of freshness – we’re able to see movies that are clearly mainstream alongside classics and some art-house or independent films. Just grab a drink and snack from the bar and let yourself relax in one of the two cinema screens. Even the tickets are retro, styled as though they came straight from the 1920s, and can be conveniently picked up just before a screening.

As The Electric Cinema is standing with one foot in the past, it’s started a new programme last year called The Cinematic Time Machine, which includes a series of classic film screenings from different time periods – starting from the early 1910s and going all the way up to modern cinema. The programme is realised with funding from the British Film Institute and serves as a chance to see old films that we would probably never catch otherwise.

The series screened films dating up to the 1950s until March this year, and showed famous movies such as Casablanca (1942) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), starring Marilyn Monroe, in April. Fans of Akira Kurosawa will be able to catch the Seven Samurai (1953), while Stanley Kubrick admirers can see Paths Of Glory (1957) on the big screen.

Other than the Cinematic Time Machine, The Electric also offers special screenings alongside its usual programme. For those who may be interested, on Saturday April 30th the cinema will be showing Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) in its director George Miller’s preferred black and white version, which was on limited release. On Thursday April 27th there’s a chance to see the first and legendary Godzilla (1954) during a “drink-along” screening, in association with The Birmingham Whisky Club and Nikka Whisky.

The Electric is not the venue for visual effects-fuelled Hollywood Blockbusters – it has smaller screens and is clearly no IMAX Cinema. However, screenings of films such as La La Land (2017) are almost magical – sitting in a venue that aesthetically corresponds with what is happening on screen not only makes it more atmospheric, but also fulfils the whole experience.

The Electric Cinema screen
The Electric Cinema screen

Not forgetting to mention, The Electric is very tempting for students since the concession ticket price is £6.50. This doesn’t change no matter what time of the day you wish to see a film. The Electric Cinema also offers comfortable seats – there’s the option of sofas for two or even four, named after famous actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Anyone looking for a more traditional place to watch a movie will certainly be pleased with The Electric Cinema.  Situated in Birmingham’s city centre, the venue is easy to get to from anywhere – it’s just minutes from New Street Station and is open until late. Put simply: it’s a perfect place to relax after lectures and to catch up with film classics you’d miss otherwise.

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