Fill the Land with Cinemas

Declarations for Cinema from the Scala Beyond network

DECLARATION #19: Star and Shadow Cinema

We are the Star & Shadow Cinema, a cinema with a 65-seat auditorium, a bar, and an exhibition space. Our venue is entirely run by volunteers from film programming, film projecting, finance work, ordering drinks for the bar, staffing the door and the bar, cleaning the toilets, contacting filmmakers, applying for funding, or designing the website and the brochures. We also have no hierarchical structure, so we have no managers and no-one has more importance than anyone else in the decision making. Our meetings are open to everyone, and decisions are taken by consensus. We opened in July 2006 so we just celebrated our 6th anniversary!

We show films at least twice a week, but we also have gigs, theatre plays, club nights or exhibitions on. However, we wanted to be called a “cinema” rather than an “art space”, because there is a sense that “art spaces” have something quite exclusive about them, while a “cinema” is open to everyone.

Cinema is still the best place to watch a film, because it offers a space where you are cut off from everyone, where you have no obligations and where nothing can reach you, where you take the risk to embark on an emotional adventure, and where the conditions to allow this to happen are the best – big images and great sound. For 2 hours, you will be somewhere else, but also, you will be alone with yourself. Cinema is not just an escapist thing, it’s also about meeting yourself, meeting your emotions, being afraid, touched, happy, angry, annoyed. Your “thinking” rational mind switches off, you’re a bit like under a state of “hypnosis” in front of big images, and your emotional self takes over.
This special experience is allowed by the space of the cinema auditorium, where you don’t have to justify your emotions to anyone, to understand them, or to put them into words. You just live them. In a way, the cinema space locks you into emotional freedom. At home or on a computer, your social self is still there, not entirely switched off, and anyone can intrude on your experience – the phone, flatmates, family, etc. How many people love crying at the cinema? It’s a special, private experience.

But also, the cinema allows for an incredible sense of togetherness. There is nothing like hearing an auditorium laugh and enjoy a film. A few years ago, we showed An American Werewolf in London at Halloween to a full auditorium, and the screening was simply magic. Such a silly/trashy/funny film, the reactions in the audience were electric, it felt like we were sailing all together on a dream adventure.

Also, cinemas, because they are so accessible (price wise and in their image) allow your social self to switch off more than with other arts: at the cinema, you can go whenever you want, wearing whatever you want, alone or accompanied – there is not so much stigma attached to it, in terms of class or sociability. In that sense, the cinema space has a revolutionary potential in that it might gather people from different social backgrounds, and that it allows you to switch off your socially constructed image – while in the auditorium, at least.

The Star & Shadow Cinema, in its film programming, has a double function: to allow anyone to programme films (as anyone can become a volunteer), and to give people the possibility of creating their own cultural offer, but also to programme films that would not be seen anywhere else. The number of films made in the world every year is massive, their variety very wide, and yet, the number of films that will be released to most cinemas is very small. The exhibition sector in the UK is dominated by chains and multiplexes, and the general offer of films is filtered through distributors / the press / producers. It is narrowed down to a small number of films that are deemed “accessible” enough and that are commercially viable – and this is true even more so in Newcastle than in London. At the Star & Shadow Cinema, we try to show films that are not distributed anywhere else, whether they are obscure foreign films, art films, amateur films, or old films that no-one shows anymore.

We also love projecting films on 35mm when possible, because it is still the most beautiful format. It has that special softness and blurriness created by the flickering light and the slight movement of the projector, but also by the richness of the contrast and colour recorded on film. It has that human touch because it needs a human being behind the machine, because it reproduces the vision of human eye better, because it has that visual warmth, and because it records the traces of time (the scratches). It is also an object that has a start and an end, and a screening feels more like an event on 35mm, because you can’t so easily play rewind, forward or pause. You have to be there, then. It’s not like a file that you can keep on computer forever. It exists as an object, it has a physical and finite presence.

More and more, we are drawn into doing everything all at the same time – emailing, texting, working, messaging friends, being on a beach in Cuba and updating your facebook profile, having a bath while watching a music video, being in a train while emailing – the spaces where we are locked into being alone and disconnected from the world are becoming more and more rare. Outside reality can interfere in our lives all the time. That’s a way of not missing anything, but it might also sometimes make us miss what’s in front of us, what we feel and who we are. Cinemas and their auditoriums – if you switch your mobile phone off – still allow for this special emotional alone experience to happen, and that is totally unique.

Star & Shadow Cinema: Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2NP. Website | Facebook | Twitter

As part of Scala Beyond, The Star and Shadow Cinema will be screening:

Sunday 2 September | 7.30pm | £5 or £3.50 per film / or £12 and £8 for season pass Girl Gang Film Season Star & Shadow Cinema | Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne | NE1 2NP

Thursday 20 September | 7.30pm | £5 per film The Star and Shadow Cinema presents 1960s Japanese Sci Fi: KING KONG VS GOZILLA Star & Shadow Cinema | Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne | NE1 2NP

Sunday 23 September | 7.30pm | £5 per film 1960s Japanese Sci Fi: MATANGO Star & Shadow Cinema | Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne | NE1 2NP


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This entry was posted on August 8, 2012 by in North East and Yorkshire.
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