Recently, Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema has started a new type of screen-experience – Cinebar. In these special screenings you can sit in the bar and watch a movie, surrounded by crisps, drinks and good-natured chatter. So, how does it work? Is the drunken nattering of the audience entertaining or distracting? Impact decided to go and investigate…
The latest instalment in the Cinebar catalogue was Election, Alexander Payne’s high school comedy, selected to celebrate the release of The Descendants. Having never seen the film, despite being a self-confessed Payne-fan, I was eager to cross it off the list and see if it got close to the brilliance of his 2004 Californian wine romp, Sideways.
After settling into our moderately uncomfortable seats, pint and peanuts in hand, the projection – on the Cinebar’s far wall – got underway. The crowd was smallish but then the bar is hardly an auditorium, if there had been any more people the drone of munching would’ve been akin to a swarm of hornets.
The movie itself is still excellent. The standoff between Matthew Broderick (a teacher) and Reese Witherspoon (a student who opts to run for class president) presents a constant menace of uncertainty, peerlessly acted by the two leads. It’s funny, but not hysterical – this is a stylistic decision rather than a fault, Payne makes comedies but not as we know them. A shrug, a sigh, the odd genius bit of scripting but little pause for the audience to burst into laughter, Payne’s films are constructions of pure enjoyment that attempt to balance comedy, drama and sadness. Election may not be his most successful export at doing this, but it’s a thoroughly entertaining 100-minutes that will satisfy fans of his later work.
As for the Cinebar experience. I think, overall, it can be classed a success, but your level of acceptance will depend solely on your own tastes. From a personal perspective, I’m no ridiculous stickler for cinema etiquette (i.e. complete silence and no munching whatsoever) but I do prefer the classic movie-watching formula: quiet, respect, everyone making a genuine attempt to enjoy the film. Cinebar doesn’t nail it for me, but it’s a rare outing that makes a nice alternative to the standard fare (coming from somebody who goes to the cinema several times a week). Many will absolutely love the opportunity to watch a movie like they would in their living room, but in the very nice surroundings of Broadway’s ground-floor bar.
Cinebar will not be everyone’s cup o’ tea, but it will be most people’s pint of lager (or ale, if you prefer). Students in particular should give this a go, at £3.50 with a free drink also thrown in, it’s basically a free movie. Next up is the mercurial Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride on Tuesday 21st February, should be a real treat, maybe I’ll see you there.