“Hey! Let’s just put the show on right here, in the barn!”

It was a cliché of musical comedy – the cash-strapped but talented young actors / dancers just want to do their thing but it all goes wrong – they just can’t get a break, or the theatre burns down on opening night, or the costumes all shrink in the rain, etc etc etc – but are they defeated? No! The show must go on!

This was very much our ethos for starting a community cinema as a way to just do it – pitch up, show a film, pack up and move on.

We wanted to share our love of cinema and to create a sense of intimacy and magic, and there’s something romantic about the pop-up experience: giving a space quite a different life for a short time seems to bring people together in a special way.      Cinema is after all about transformation.

Sometimes the barn really is a barn and it is hard to create the magical ambience we’re after. When we’re shinning up and down wobbly ladders with armfuls of blackout material, searching for an electricity socket, one of the speakers has blown and we can’t get the right angle for the projector, or when there are people wandering in and out on their way to the woodwork class next door, it’s tempting to give up the whole crazy idea and look for a more permanent venue.

The funny thing is that pop-up was the way cinema started – in its early days at the end of the nineteenth century, film was an emerging novelty only shown in temporary spaces.

The early moving pictures were commissioned by travelling showmen for their fairgrounds. The films were very short, mostly under a minute long, and sold by the foot. Some were hand-coloured, though these were more expensive so mainly went to the bigger fairs.

They were shown in tent theatres alongside the bearded ladies and dog-faced boys as part of the fairground attractions. Cinema was such a new art that actual buildings weren’t made to house them until the early twentieth century, when the film production boom suddenly took off on both sides of the Atlantic. But for the first ten years of its life, cinema and pop-up venues went hand in hand.

It’s worth a thought when you read about the latest uber-cool pop-up screening projected inside a cave or in a teepee made out of recycled cereal boxes or from ever more extravagant locations…it’s not just a fashion fad, it’s a genuine response to a desire to see films experientially, to feel part of something amazing.

It’s nice to sit back in a comfortable seat with surround sound and a giant screen that engulfs your whole attention – but if you want to be part of a more intimate audience experience, watch a fllm in the way that people used to in a temporary space and feel full of wonder at the sheer spectacle of the moving image – then come and see us, we’ll be putting another show on in a barn very soon….

Next screening: Summer’s End Soiree, Sunday September 4th, with ReCycle Bikes – see Coming Up 

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