3 Examples of Live Cinema Events Done Well

live cinema

Across the UK there are an abundance of organisations, festivals and community groups producing live cinematic events with a twist. Film exhibition not only entertains but has the potential and capacity to socially and artistically engage, forming a platform for debate and discussion. Going to see a film in a social setting is as much about story-processing as it is story telling.

The list below demonstrates the power of cinema to drag us away from our laptops and delightfully bring films to life, with bespoke details placed around the screenings themselves. Some of the following I have worked on directly, others I have collaborated on and some I’ve had the joy of experiencing, simply as part of an audience.

Here are three examples of events that successfully combine unique audience engagement and bringing people together through good movies.

Spookers: Sheffield Doc/Fest – June 2017

Sheffield International Documentary Festival is the country’s leading documentary film festival and the third largest, internationally. Providing a slick programme of films, panels, parties, new technology and virtual reality, the festival has something for local audiences as well as business professionals travelling from over 60 countries to attend each summer.

The standout moment being when audiences were encouraged to venture to a venue slightly further afield for a screening of horror documentary Spookers. A film that focuses on a successful haunted-house experience company in Auckland, Doc/Fest were quick to ensure that audiences were not just guests but participants. Complete with a live scare experience and theatrical performances, audiences were well and truly immersed in suspense and horror before the projector was warmed up. Taking place in the slightly dilapidated but undeniably stunning Abbeydale Picture House, the evening not only created an atmosphere themed around the film itself but directly re-created the characters depicted in the documentary. After an intense, but of course, not compulsory, haunted house experience, audience members made their way into the auditorium where an array of unusual objects could be found on their seats; items which related to the characters in the film. This would become apparent to them whilst watching, making this a constantly immersive experience, even throughout the screening.

What worked so brilliantly about Spookers is the way that it built on the expectations of the type of person who would naturally be drawn to such a specific documentary. This is an example of brilliantly identifying audiences and intensifying exhibition.

The Final Girls: The Love Witch – March 2017

Based in London, The Final Girls is the overarching title of an ongoing film series that celebrates and champions horror movies with strong feminist themes. They celebrate film content, filmmakers and film talent – both on and off the screen – and tour their programme around the country.

In March I had the pleasure of attending their Sheffield screening of Anna Biller’s The Love Witch – an aesthetically complex and nostalgic satirical piece of work which harks back to horror cinema of the mid 20th Century. Combining comedy with themes of witchcraft, love, sex and magic, the film had a lot to unpick – a real labour of love for Biller and featuring a striking performance from actor Samantha Robinson. When entering the cinema the audience was instantly absorbed in the free posters and marketing materials given out as we took our seats. What followed was a short and warm introduction from the women behind the screening and an invitation to the post-screening tea party. As the lights dimmed, the atmosphere was perfectly set and this was reflected in the energetic reactions to the movie from an excited audience. Surrounded by the laughter of other audience members, The Final Girls delivered not just an enjoyable bespoke screening but managed to make it one with a social and communal spirit. The tea party was a chance to indulge in treats and recreations of the film’s key location and also provided the ideal surroundings for the audience to mingle and discuss the film in more detail. Having the curators there in person only made the entire thing more welcoming. What I loved most about this event was that the organisers had really taken into consideration the importance of reflection as well as exhibition.

When entering the cinema the audience was instantly absorbed in the free posters and marketing materials given out as we took our seats. What followed was a short and warm introduction from the women behind the screening and an invitation to the post-screening tea party. As the lights dimmed, the atmosphere was perfectly set and this was reflected in the energetic reactions to the movie from an excited audience. Surrounded by the laughter of other audience members, The Final Girls delivered not just an enjoyable bespoke screening but managed to make it one with a social and communal spirit. The tea party was a chance to indulge in treats and recreations of the film’s key location and also provided the ideal surroundings for the audience to mingle and discuss the film in more detail. Having the curators there in person only made the entire thing more welcoming. What I loved most about this event was that the organisers had really taken into consideration the importance of reflection as well as exhibition.

Live Cinema UK  – The Big LOVE Tea Dance – November 2015

“The Film is only Half the Story” – the first message one takes in when entering Live Cinema’s website. The brainchild of Lisa Brook, Live Cinema has been a triumphant success in the handful of years that it’s been around. Based in Yorkshire and building up an international reputation, the company aims to produce high quality, experimental cinematic experiences by bringing exhibitors and artists together.

I worked directly with Live Cinema UK in 2015. With their support and guidance, I produced my first live cinema event for They Eat Culture, one very close to my heart. As well as getting to exhibit my favourite film of all time, David Lean’s Brief Encounter, I also got to put on a tea party and tea dance for an enthusiastic audience of all ages.

In their Live Cinema in the UK Report 2016, the organisation has defined Live Cinema as “A film screening utilising additional performance or interactivity inspired by the content of the film” and that is exactly what I set out to achieve with my event, as part of the BFI LOVE Season & The Big LOVE Tea Dance.

A beginner’s dance lesson set the mood for a chipper and relaxing afternoon and as the audience settled down with a Victoria sandwich and pots of tea, the film played to both new audiences and those who were returning to the classic for a dozenth time. I found Live Cinema a joy to work with, inspired by their relentless passion for the work they do – united in our mission to bring a unique cinematic experience to our local audiences.

It is no surprise that Live Cinema continue to go from strength to strength; their work is of the highest and most original quality, all driven by a sincere love for what they do and the films they enhance through their bespoke exhibition and productions.

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hannahmchaffie@hotmail.com'

Hannah McHaffie

Since graduating with a MA in Film Studies from The University of Edinburgh in 2014, Hannah has forged a career for herself within the film journalism and film exhibition sectors. She currently works full time as part of the year round team behind Sheffield Doc/Fest - the world's third largest documentary film festival. Hannah has been a freelance film journalist since 2012. As well as writing for EventBrite UK, Hannah has previously been published by The Double Negative. She runs her own film site, posting weekly film reviews and blogs at hannahmchaffie.com. You can get in touch at hannahmchaffie@hotmail.com with any queries about commissions or freelance work...or just for a chat about her favourite Robert De Niro movies.