Out and About: Two Cinemas in Leicester Square, London

Visiting London for a few days over the Easter holiday was great. I was with my partner and youngest son, leaving our eldest son, N, at home alone for the first time. N hates crowds so London is often stressful for him. He wanted the house to himself for a few days and so we decided it was time to let him have that. He invited his friends round to watch every Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 1, 2 and 3 box set and eat copious amounts of pizza and chocolate. N is very serious about his Marvel fixation, much to the disgust of my youngest son, B.

My youngest wants to be a film director and is film mad. Before we left for London we looked up some more unusual cinema experiences for him and came across The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square.

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B, outside The Prince Charles Cinema

On Sunday evening, our first night in London, we went to the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square to see ‘Us’, written and directed by Jordan Peele. Vue gave us the standard cinema experience we’re used to, except the seats were more comfortable than our local cinema and obviously the whole thing was more expensive. But I did get to take a glass of wine in for the film so I was happy about that.

I liked Us, although I admit I wasn’t keen to see it because I’m a coward when it comes to horror films. I liked ‘Get Out’ though so I was willing to give it a go. The cast of Us were brilliant, and the story really worked well. But I won’t pretend I know loads about film and attempt to write a proper film review here; I shall leave that to my son B. What I’m interested in is the cinema experience itself. And I liked Vue. The staff were friendly, the environment was nice. However, the audience weren’t great. A fight nearly broke out between two customers towards the end of the film; it involved a lot of shouting and testosterone and alcohol fuelled posturing, and there was a lot of talking and mobile phone use by other customers throughout which was constantly distracting.

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On Monday morning we headed up to Leicester Square again to find The Prince Charles Cinema and book tickets for Alien, but the cinema doesn’t open until 15 minutes before the first film showing and so we walked up to The Photographer’s Gallery. I’ll post about that separately, but it’s not far from Leicester Square, about a 15 minute walk if you can avoid getting distracted by all the shops and stalls on the way.

Anyway, back to The Prince Charles Cinema. The tickets cost £9 each, which for Central London is brilliant. B was impressed straight away. He’s never seen a cinema like it before, even the foyer was new to him as he’s used to the big multiscreen cinemas. It felt like going back to the 1980s. The staff were a combination of rude and really friendly and helpful. So I expect I just got one person who wanted to be cool and took it out on everyone around them including the customers. I wouldn’t let it put me off going again though. In fact, I’d probably make a point of enjoying the rudeness as part of the experience.

The customers were a totally different bunch to Vue. There were a lot of people on their own and most were dressed appropriately weirdly for the setting. The main thing for me was that when we got into the auditorium and Alien started, not one single person spoke,  got out a mobile phone, or made any noise or disturbance at all. That honestly hasn’t happened to me at the cinema for a long time.

The auditorium looks great. Very retro; I loved all the red and gold. The seats were comfortable enough, and you could sit anywhere.

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The ‘What Would You Like Us to Show Next’ board. Hot Fuzz please. Or anything by Edgar Wright.

 

I don’t have to say Alien was excellent. I don’t know if it was 35mm, 70mm or digital and to be honest, I don’t really care. But for B, the format is really important and he’s keen to see as many films as he can in their original format.

They have a board downstairs (they may have one upstairs too), where you can make requests. So B, whose favourite director is Edgar Wright, wrote up a request for Hot Fuzz.

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I think The Prince Charles Cinema will now be a standard visit on our trips to London, which are fairly frequent. B has decided it is his new favourite place, it even beats the British Film Institute, BFI on the South Bank which is often quite disappointing in terms of film for our family. There’s a lot B would like to see at the BFI but with him being 14 (15 for cinema purposes because he’s so close to it anyway) they just don’t seem to have a lot on offer when we try. There’s 18+ films, or kids films, and not a lot in between.

This trip the BFI were doing Stanley Kubrick season, but they were showing A Clockwork Orange. It seems an odd decision in the middle of the Easter holiday to show that rather than something like 2001 A Space Odyssey, which we would have loved to have seen at the BFI. Never mind, perhaps next time.

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