Repertory Cinemas in the UK Experience a Revival Amidst the Pandemic
In the heart of London, a small crowd gathers on a chilly November evening for a screening of The Lord of the Rings. However, this isn’t Peter Jackson’s acclaimed trilogy; it’s Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version, a film that has long been criticized for its subpar quality. Despite this, 134 tickets have been sold, surpassing the ticket sales for the latest blockbuster film. This gathering is a testament to the resurgence of repertory cinema in the UK, a form of cinema that specializes in screening classic films rather than the latest releases. After years of decline, repertory cinemas are experiencing a renaissance, attracting diverse audiences and offering a nostalgic escape from the mainstream.
The Decline and Rebirth of Repertory Cinema
Until the 1960s, repertory cinemas were a common sight across Britain, offering audiences the chance to revisit beloved films or discover hidden gems. However, the advent of television, the rise of multiplexes, and the availability of physical media led to the decline of these cinemas. By the early 2000s, most repertory cinemas had disappeared. Yet, in recent years, there has been a flicker of hope for this fading art form.
A Flicker of Hope Amidst the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unexpected changes in the film industry, including a resurgence of interest in repertory cinema. In London alone, 98 venues now regularly screen classic films, ranging from boutique and arthouse chains to volunteer-run “community cinemas” in unconventional locations. Additionally, the number of community cinemas across the country has increased by 50 percent since the pandemic began.
The Allure of Repertory Cinema
The appeal of repertory cinema lies in its ability to transport audiences to a bygone era. For many, it offers a chance to experience films that may have been missed during their initial release or to relive cherished memories. The curated nature of repertory screenings allows for a deeper appreciation of cinema as an art form, fostering discussions and connections among attendees.
A Community Experience
Repertory cinemas also provide a sense of community that is often lacking in mainstream cinemas. At venues like the Garden Cinema in London’s Holborn, audiences gather not only to watch a film but also to engage in post-screening discussions led by knowledgeable programmers. These discussions create a space for film enthusiasts to share their thoughts, insights, and interpretations, fostering a sense of camaraderie among attendees.
The Challenges and Future of Repertory Cinema
While the resurgence of repertory cinema is promising, it is not without its challenges. The lack of formal collation of ticket sales makes it difficult to gauge the full extent of its popularity. Additionally, the reliance on older films and the niche nature of repertory cinema can limit its appeal to a wider audience. However, the passion and dedication of repertory cinema enthusiasts, coupled with the growing demand for alternative cinematic experiences, bode well for its future.
The resurgence of repertory cinema in the UK is a testament to the enduring power of classic films and the desire for a more intimate and communal cinematic experience. As audiences seek an escape from the mainstream and a chance to rediscover the magic of older films, repertory cinemas provide a nostalgic haven. While challenges remain, the growing interest in repertory cinema and the sense of community it fosters indicate a bright future for this cherished art form. So, next time you find yourself craving a cinematic experience that transcends the latest blockbusters, consider stepping into a repertory cinema and immersing yourself in the magic of cinema’s past.