I made the short trip to Ilkley to see first hand what the buzz behind the new cinema was all about.
Ilkley is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance at the minute. An affluent town on the cusp of the Yorkshire Dales, it's very much benefited from the overspill of the indie food resurgence that's taken Leeds by storm over the past few years. Picturesque streets are now lined with independent restaurants, bars and coffee houses for all tastes, and there is a general feeling of community and self-sufficiency that many towns aspire for. One recent addition that is proving very popular is the new Cinema. In a similar mould to the Everyman chain, Ilkley Cinema focuses on reinventing the experience of a trip to the movies.
Like many things, the dawn of the internet has made entertainment very accessible. If you're not in a rush to see a film, you can usually watch it online within a few months of it hitting the big screens and still get change from a fiver (legally, of course). The comfort of watching a movie at home has been made that bit more appealing for many with the rise of the multiplex cinema - people in their thousands are herded around leviathan concrete fortresses usually parked inbetween a Nandos and a Starbucks, showing the same blockbuster every 15 minutes on seventeen screens, each the size of a modest four-bed semi, where you're lucky to get change from £20 for a ticket, a small box of stale popcorn and a gallon of carbonated syrup. It's fair to say modern day cinema does not have the same romance that encapsulated the world when it was born 90 years ago.
Thankfully Ilkley Cinema couldn't be more different. Sat in the premises of the old Trav nightclub, the entire building has been tastefully decorated with arthouse-style film posters and old movie memorabilia and the schedule features an array of new releases, classics, and independent films.
Surprisingly, this modest boutique cinema boasts just one screen. And it's not huge. By all accounts, it's pretty small - Europe's smallest Ultra 4K cinema screen, to be precise. And there aren't that many seats, either - only 55. But unlike the aforementioned soulless out-of-town multiplexes, Ilkley Cinema isn't about size. It's about the experience. As you enter the cinema you aren't presented with a wall of NCP-esque ticket machines. Instead, you purchase your tickets from an actual person, behind a bar that stocks a variety of wines, beers, spirits, local ales and artisan food. Your food is then delivered to your seat as the picture commences.
Oh, and those 55 seats I mentioned? They're not just seats. They're ruddy armchairs! Instead of the uncomfortable airline seats most of us are accustomed to, where anyone over 5' 11" has to pay a further kidney to upgrade to something that isn't going to give them DVT, your posterior is comfortably catered for by an array of brightly coloured, super comfy armchairs and sofas - each with their own little table and wine chiller. Gone are the days of that inevitable awkward departure, trying to gracefully regain circulation to at least one buttock.
In an age where life is very much about consumption, it's great to see an independent venue focus on experience. It really makes this place stand out against it's much, much larger competition, and I'm sure more smaller venues will follow suit.