As much as I love going to see mainstream releases on huge screens and despite the fact that I’ve seen countless outstanding films in these settings, there remain so many things that get me down about going to the multiplex. The parking, the mid-film texters, the noisy popcorn-eaters, the talkers, the advertising, the unhealthy food options…the list goes on and on. But this isn’t a moan. It’s merely an opportunity to remind myself and others that there are a whole lot of multiplex alternatives out there that are NOT more expensive, that do not involve having to apply more effort and that can, in many cases, provide a more memorable and meaningful experience. That might be due to the uniqueness of the venue, the film being shown (it will often be something that you might otherwise never be able to see other than in your own home) or it might be something to do with the interaction with other people looking for a similar experience and a renewed sense of connection through the shared experience of great cinema.
If, for any reason, you don’t want to use the multiplex and want to see a range of arthouse, independent or even mainstream films at (normally) a cheaper price, there are loads of options, but let’s start with the most obvious….
The Showroom and Workstation
One of largest independent cinemas in Europe, The Showroom is situated in the heart of Sheffield city centre (opposite the train station). Whilst it does show some of the mainstream films like the local multiplexes, they mainly show independent and art house films. The cinema plays host to lots of film festivals and events taking place through out the year. They’ve also got a lovely café/bar you can relax in before or after seeing one of their showings.
Once a month, short films and animations made by regional and national film makers are screened. The screening takes place in The Showroom Bar, is free to watch and even has a raffle where you can win some great prizes.
Click for details of when it’s on, and what’s coming up.
Showroom Shorts is run by The South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network, an organisation based in Sheffield which promotes local film production and provides film networking and film making activities. They also send out a detailed newsletter every week with information about what’s happening around Yorkshire which is worth singing up to via they’re website.
Magic Lantern Film Club
The Magic Lantern film club is based in Sheffield and aims to put on great movies in unusual locations. They’re suitable for anyone and everyone to go and see and show a mix of films over the year. For an entire year’s membership, it costs just £5!
This is a real example of grass roots film exhibition wherein a small group of film fanatics have got together in their spare time to create magical experiences for themselves and for others. Every screening has a unique twist, whether that’s a quiz or a dressing up opportunity. My favourite event to date was watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with around 80 other people under the stars in a small courtyard in Meersbrook. ‘Cowboy bean stew’ was even provided.
The Film Unit
Over at The University of Sheffield’s Students’ Union, Film Unit show films in the well-equipped and cosy ‘Auditorium’ every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You don’t have to be a student to go in, anyone can go and enjoy it, and what’s better is that the tickets cost only £2.50! (They can be ordered online or bought at the box office in the union). If you hop on a bus or tram, The Film Unit is worth a gander! They show all kinds of films but mostly well-known releases from about 6 months prior (hence the cheap tickets).
Set in a Community Centre on Sharrow Vale Road, SharrowReels shows a monthly film for all the community. Their aim is to provide local film nights that are independent and as they describe on their website, always have “great films, great atmosphere, great value.” Tickets cost £3 and they even throw in coffee and homemade cakes.
In Bradfield, the community hall shows films on a monthly basis. They’ve invested in cinema-quality equipment in their hall and screen all kinds of films, from blockbusters to music concerts. Again, the cost is much lower than the average multiplex and they even say you can bring your own seat!
Hathersage Film Club (Derbyshire)
For those living in the Peak District, just over the border from Sheffield, there’s the Hathersage Film Club. Set in the Hathersage Memorial Hall, the showings vary from classics to newer releases, but there’s always one for all age groups and it’s only a fiver to get in.
Sheffield’s Friends of the Earth
In May, Sheffield’s chapter of Friends of the Earth returns with their third film festival, during which they’ll screen four feature length documentaries. Last year, it was held at the Central United Reformed Church and was shown every Wednesday throughout February. Details of location and times are still to be confirmed, so make sure you keep an eye out for this, it’s another way to go and see some interesting films and not have to trek out to the multiplex.
The Film Pool
The Film Pool not-for profit organisation in Sheffield which provides a community and workspace for film makers, animators, writers and producers. If you’re involved (or wanting to be involved) in making or exhibiting films, the space or other services offered might be of use to you. It’s an excellent location for cast and crew screenings, test screenings or low key film club nights. Maximum capacity is around 25 and the HD screening facilities are all in place and ready to go.
All of the above of course neglects the many and wondrous film festivals that are held annually in South Yorkshire. These include Doc/Fest, Sensoria, Shaff, Celluloid Screams and Showcomotion, most of which also present individual events around the year, often in unique settings, sometimes with Q&As with the filmmakers. But we’ll talk more about each of these in our next blog post…coming very soon.
There’s loads of alternatives to the multiplex cinemas in Yorkshire, Sheffield and beyond. They’re always ever-changing and new ones emerging so it’s worth keeping an eye on their websites or signing up for their mailing lists.