Covid was a mixed blessing. Whilst locking us down it also allowed many to reset. Local independent cinemas were one.
At the bottom of the food chain, the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds was doomed. One hundred and eight years on with lottery funding this Grade Two listed cinema will be reborn next year.
There are other independent cinemas but, like libraries and proper pubs, they are disappearing at an alarming rate – because we all sit at home thinking it’s too expensive to go out.
Before we start diving into what’s coming up in the darker months on the silver screen, I’d like to mention finance. It’s all on our minds and the less we spend the better. Streaming movies seems like a good idea. Let’s see the current costs to watching the box in the corner.
- BBC licence fee – £159pa (£13.25pm)
- Netflix – from £6.99pm
- Amazon – £8.99pm
- Apple TV – £4.99pm
- Paramount TV – £6.99pm
- Disney+ £7.99pm
Subscribe to them annually and that would be £590.40 pa. Yes, there are temporary offers but in this competitive market the price is only likely to go one way. Up.
Seeing a production live is the best of course. You can’t beat watching it happen right in front of you. In August I paid £200 for two seats at an afternoon performance in the West End. Let’s not discuss the food, train fare or hotel bill. In contrast I went to my local independent cinema recently. It’s about the cheapest way of having a night out there is compared to a theatre or a restaurant.
A recent visit to see a new movie at my local Pictureville cinema, followed by a curry, a beer and a taxi cost me £30.
The bottom line is getting out of the house and into your local independent cinema to see a new movie is a great way to have an evening outside your four walls without breaking the bank.
Here are my recommendations for cinema going in no particular order. Oh, and instead of visiting a chain, try supporting an independent near you. It’s cheaper, quirky and they will love you for it.
It’s 1953 in London and Mr Williams is a boring Englishman. He knows he is and he’d like to do something about it as he’s facing a fatal illness and his clock is ticking. Bill Nighy plays the role in such a laconic, almost apologetic British manner you would never know this film originated in Japan. It’s released in the UK on 4th November.
THE LOST KING
In 1485 King Richard 111 became the last British King to be killed in battle. The Battle of Bosworth to be precise. For centuries his gravesite was unknown until in 2012 archaeologist Phillipa Langley became convinced he was buried under a grubby council car park in Leicester. The Queen gave her permission for the dig and Richard was found.
It’s a life-affirming true story of a woman who refused to be ignored by the country’s eminent historians, forcing them to think again. The scenes imagining Phillipa being encouraged and thanked in her fight by the ghost of Richard you might need a tissue for.
THE WOMAN KING
The strapline for the movie poster is “a warrior becomes a legend”. Personally I would have had “it’s not just men who rule” – but what do I know.
It’s Africa in the 1820s and the Agojie are an all-female warrior unit protecting the West African kingdom of Dahomey. Viola Davis is General Nanisca who trains the next generation to fight their slave trader enemies. Yes it’s violent but then we’re in Braveheart / Gladiator territory. With black women.
It’s another true story that would have been forgotten were it not for the persistence of Maria Bello who was inspired by a visit to Benin in 2015 where the kingdom used to be.
Several film companies passed until Tristar picked it up in 2017 and production began in 2020. The critics have been positive and called Davis’ performance “a career best”. One describes it as “an absolute blast and a film that isn’t afraid to get you cheering.” BBC critic Caryn James wrote, “It is a splashy popcorn movie with a social conscience”.
I don’t know where you stand on horror films but it’s that time of year when the cloak of darkness envelopes us all and the pictures entice us in with a bony finger. If you are looking for something new and truly unsettling I’d recommend Barbarian.
A young woman discovers the rental home she booked is already occupied by a stranger. Against her better judgment, she decides to spend the night but soon discovers there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest.
I long for the Hammer House of Horror days when Christopher Lee would grapple with Peter Cushing over a stake. The Devil Rides Out remains my favourite from those days and apparently the author Dennis Wheatley was so pleased with this 1968 film he gave Lee a first edition of his book.
Finally, although I’d encourage you to get out to your local independent cinema, I’d like to give a nod to Talking Pictures TV. The pandemic did them a favour.
I expect they’ll be screening classics from the horror genre around Halloween. If you (like me) find old film-reels and classic movies fascinating then I would recommend their Footage Detectives programme which encourages viewers to send in what they have squirreled away. It airs Sundays at 5pm on most platforms.
The Radio Times are also looking for undiscovered gems following the discovery of a rare Hancock’s Half Hour episode featuring Peter Sellers. “The Marriage Bureau” was the only one he did after standing in for Kenneth Williams at short notice in 1955. The restored recording will be aired by BBC R4 for only the second time at 6.30pm on Tuesday 18 October.
Old VHS tapes, reel-to-reels, home movies and audio cassettes of classics long wiped by the broadcasters are what they’re after. Have you got any? Contact The Radio Times Treasure Hunt.
Lots more TV and big screen viewing suggestions can be seen here