Are our local film clubs suffering from the new East Dulwich Picturehouse? The Bigger Picture based in East Dulwich has seen audiences halved since the East Dulwich Picturehouse opened. Others have suffered too.
South East London is blessed with a thriving and diverse film club scene showing an eclectic selection of films in small and unique venues and it’s a shame to see them under threat from commercial venues.
South East London Film Clubs website
From Dulwich to Deptford, Catford to Kennington, local film clubs are showing great films every night of the week. The good news for film lovers is that all of these clubs and films are listed on one website; South East London Film Club Listings, which can be found at https://selondonfilmclubs.org.uk.
The website is a portal for the network of South East London Film Clubs and community cinemas, acting as a one-stop shop for local, independent screenings. The idea is to make it easy for people to check online to see if there is anything on in the independent sector before going to the Picture House or Odeon websites.
Local film club screenings are listed in advance with a brief write-up of each film and ticket information. There are also details of all the film clubs in the network and updates about one-off events like pop-up cinema, outdoor screenings and film festivals.
Film clubs offer a rich cinematic experience
The film clubs in South East London range from those that have monthly or weekly screenings in a room above a pub such as The Bigger Picture at the East Dulwich Tavern, to those that are more established like the Cinema Museum in Kennington or The Roxy Bar & Screen in Borough.
Compared to commercial cinemas, which tend to offer the latest box office hits at a hefty price, film clubs offer patrons an eclectic selection of films from cult to classic and the downright quirky. Whether it’s an early 20th century silent film that is rarely screened, or the chance to explore the work of a particular director, like the Luis Buñuel season which is currently ongoing at the new Deptford Cinema, there is something for everyone.
Some film clubs, like that at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, focus on sci-fi, while others have special events for children and documentary evenings. The Misty Moon Film Society organises evenings where you can watch a film followed by an audience with one of the actors.
Film clubs may also offer patrons a little something extra, whether it’s a Q&A with the film director, film notes, a raffle or free popcorn. GalleryFilm at Dulwich Picture Gallery includes delicious snacks and a complimentary glass of wine in their ticket price and FEAST Film Nights in West Norwood often include live music and DJ sets at their events.
Value for money
There are also plenty of film clubs which show films for free, which is surely welcome news in January when most of us are trying to recover from excessive spending over the festive period. Those film clubs that do charge are affordable and usually only ask for a modest fee, making it possible to see a film and have a drink with friends without breaking the bank. Some film clubs like The Bigger Picture donate all profits to local charities thereby helping the community at the same time as providing a valuable service for film lovers.
Interesting, alternative film venues
Not all the film clubs are based in pubs which can make visiting your local film club an interesting experience. Whirled Cinema in Loughborough Junction is in converted railway arches and The Cinema Museum in Kennington is part of the former Lambeth Workhouse where Charlie Chaplin lived as a child. Other venues include a school, cafe, a community centre and an art gallery.
Passionate volunteers and community spirit
Local film clubs and community cinemas are run by volunteers who love film and want to share their passion with people in their local area, which is another reason why they’re so much fun to frequent. It’s a wonderful way to meet local people and share in the community spirit.
Would you let your local shops die when a Sainsbury’s opens up in the area? If you feel like going to a film, it’s well worth searching the South East London Film Club Listings website before deciding to go to the equivalent of a film supermarket. You’ll be supporting the independent sector and the popcorn may even be free.