Cinemas that say it’s time for independents’ day

The No6 Cinema in Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard.
Picture Ian Hargreaves (161098-11)
The No6 Cinema in Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard. Picture Ian Hargreaves (161098-11)
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In an age of entertainment where the medium of television is rapidly consuming our night-time viewing habits, be it on the small screen or a laptop screen, cinema is having to adapt and expand on its own.

However, the expansion of cinema seems to be in the ever-increasing number of multiplexes, rolled out by corporate chains that seek to thrust comic book heroes, sharp-suited 007s and beefed-up mythic tales in the form of excessive cinematic universes and constant reboots and sequels.

John Holland, the chairman of the board at No6 Cinema Picture: Ian Hargreaves (161098-5)

John Holland, the chairman of the board at No6 Cinema Picture: Ian Hargreaves (161098-5)

So what about the little guys?

Independent cinemas have always been the little guys. Chains that look to provide a trip to the cinema that serves as a social experience, bringing a certain formality to proceedings rather than asking you to pay for over-priced popcorn in the foyer.

Portsmouth’s own No 6 Cinema in the Historic Dockyard is seeking to provide that experience for cinema-lovers.

Set up in 2012 to make use of the huge 275-seat auditorium above the indoor attraction Action Stations in Boathouse 6, the cinema provides a wide range of independent films from across the world, as well as dabbling in its fair share of mainstream flicks.

Now run by the Friends of No 6 Cinema, the volunteer-led not-for-profit business is managing to keep itself alive, despite being faced by the city’s multiplexes, Vue at Gunwharf Quays and Odeon at Port Solent.

John Holland, chairman of the cinema’s board said that No 6 is ‘too good’ to be lost.

‘When the cinema first opened, its purpose was to bring a form of night-time entertainment to the dockyard,’ he said.

‘It made losses but the Friends of No 6 came in and said that it would be too good to lose and were very happy to take it on.

‘Of course, we know it’s a struggle to compete with the world of media that is out there for people to view.

‘Multiplexes and streaming sites – they do not make it easy.

However, we are not in the business of mimicking their product. We are offering the alternative.’

The cinema, which is set to re-open its doors to the public on September 1 after a summer break, provides showings Thursday to Saturday.

In its last season, the cinema revisited the golden years of film, studying a decade each month where it looked from the very first ‘talkies’ to modern-day epics.

Thursdays at the cinema are generally regarded as ‘world cinema nights’.

‘We find that people will look for films they are interested in and come to us, to see if we can show them,’ John says.

‘For our regulars, they see it as a social activity and we thrive off that.

‘Filmgoers these days can be so knowledgeable and we welcome that.

‘There are certain independent films that won’t get played in parts of the country, let alone in Hampshire, so if we can get hold of it for that person, we will try our hardest to do so.’

Statistics from the British Film Institute say that the number of multiplexes in the UK has grown from 249 in 2006 to 316 in 2015, while traditional or mixed-use cinemas continue to stay near the same level, only dropping from 448 to 435 in the same period.

The re-introduction of the mass marketing of 3D films in 2009 was part of the multiplex movement and the development of IMAX cinemas has also contributed to a knock-on effect on the independents.

Independent films do not get anywhere near the same amount of funding in terms of the Hollywood marketing machine, meaning most independents, like No 6, have to show certain mainstream films just in order to survive.

‘We feel we need to show mainstream films, as our audiences like to be able to experience them at our venue and not have to go to the multiplexes,’ John added. An example of this is when the cinema played the Maggie Smith-starring Lady In The Van last year, which filled up the auditorium and it also plans to show mainstream hits The BFG and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie next month.

John admits the battle for cinemagoers in Portsmouth is set to continue, but hopes that No 6 will be around for a long time.

‘When I look at a film these days, I want to be swallowed up by it, feel completely detached from reality and involved with what’s happening on the screen’, he says. ‘I do not just want to see a car chase.

‘So, when I look at the situation and see how this will all play out, I think to myself, we have the better setting and the better experience, so why should we be afraid?’

No 6 Cinema returns on Thursday, September 1.

COMING TO NUMBER 6 SOON

Highlights from No 6 Cinema in September and October:

n Friday, September 2: When Marnie Was There - Sweeping animation about friendship and mystery. 7pm.

n Friday, September 16: Branagh Theatre Encore: Romeo & Juliet - Filmed stage re-telling of the classic tragedy. 7pm.

n Saturday, September 17: The BFG - Steven Spielberg’s take on the Roald Dahl classic. 7pm.

n Thursday, October 6: Notes on Blindness - An intimate story of loss and rebirth. 7pm.

n Thursday, October 13: To Kill A Mockingbird - The acclaimed adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel on race. 7pm.

n Friday, October 28: 
Hell or High Water - A gruelling drama about family and robbers set in West Texas. 7pm.

THE VIEW FROM CHICHESTER

One independent cinema causing a big stir on the south coast is Chichester Cinema at New Park.

The venue, in New Park Road, which was transformed into a cinema 37 years ago from an old Victorian school, took in more than 6,000 people through its doors.

Currently, halfway through its 25th International Film Festival, the cinema has become one of the town’s biggest attractions.

It also airs a mix between mainstream and indie films and Carol Godsmark, the marketing officer for the cinema said it is riding a wave of success.

‘Our cinema is a big success for the area,’ she said. ‘We are a different beast. We bring in documentary films, as we like to see debates and dialogue. One should not be frightened by subtitles.’

Their competition is the Cineworld Cinema, which was fitted to show IMAX films in October 2014.

Carol added: ‘We compete with them well and we manage to hold them off.

‘More and more people are turning to independent film. They are getting bored of the blandness of the multiplex. They want individualism and quirkiness.’

A total of 155 films will be shown over the course of the festival’s 18 days.

The cinema shows about 300 films a year.

CHICHESTER FILM FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

Highlights from the rest of the 25th International Chichester Film Festival

n Saturday, 20th August: Barry Lyndon (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1979) and SK1 (dir. Frederic Tellier, 2015)

n Monday, 22nd August: Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (dir. Stig Bjorkman, 2015)

n Tuesday 23rd August: The Violators (dir. Helen Walsh, 2015)

n Wednesday 24th August: 
Untouchable (dir. Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, 2011)

n Thursday 25th August: Pride (Matthew Warchus, 2014)

n Friday 26th and Saturday 27th August: Captain Fantastic (dir. Matt Ross, 2016)

n Sunday 28th August: 
Valley of Love (dir. Guillaume Nicloux, 2015)