We all have our unique memories of what cinema means to us, some of us might have been lucky enough to see The Godfather or Jaws in Cinemas, for others it might be Star Wars or Toy Story. We each have that unique connection to the big screen and that tingling sensation when the curtains open and the film starts, our anticipation high for the next two to three hours.
Some of my strongest memories of cinema-going stem from my days as a student in Exeter and I forged a particularly strong connection with the City’s Picturehouse delving heavily into their Wes Anderson series and enjoying the Polish treat Cold War ahead of its wider debut among many other visits.
A Celebration of Cinemas seeks to spotlight some of the Filmhounds team’s greatest and most adored cinemas, to champion these spaces and uplift them as cultural beacons of brilliance. It was an easy decision to choose the Exeter Picturehouse as it is without doubt one of my favourite cinemas with a friendly well informed team and a series of fantastic seasons that shine a light on both well loved and lesser known cinematic gems.
I had the opportunity to speak to Paul Breen, the General Manager for the site, about how they’ve tackled the lockdowns and how Paul sees the future for both the site and broader independent cinemas in the UK and some of the film’s he’s most excited for customers to enjoy.
Can you tell me a bit about the history of Exeter Picturehouse?
Exeter Picturehouse opened in 1996 having converted a building that used to be used to service buses and coaches. It was one of the first small handful of Picturehouse cinemas to open.
What is your personal involvement with the site?
I am the General Manager of the cinema and, as such, I am responsible for managing all aspects of the operation. I consider it an honour to have the opportunity to manage such a great cinema which has an amazing team working in it and fantastic customers enjoying the best films.
How do you see independent cinemas faring when cinemas reopen their doors ?
I think those smaller cinemas that have survived the lockdown (sadly some have not) will reap the benefits when they do re-open. There are a huge number of films waiting to be released and a definite appetite to see them on the big screen where they belong.
Exeter has quite the cinematic tradition, how do you feel Picturehouse fits into this and how do you feel you stand apart from the City’s Vue and Odeon sites?
We stand apart in many ways from the local competition. We are the community cinema that treats our customers as individuals. Our customer service is second to none with the widest range of films for our very knowledgeable customers. Before the pandemic restrictions, we encouraged our customers to dwell in the cinema in our fabulous bar and cafe to discuss the film they were about to see or had just seen – not something that generally happens in a multiplex.
Can you tell us about your membership scheme and what that entails ?
Our membership is a great value for money way for our customers to make regular visits to the cinema. We have various different types to cover all budgets and ages. A regular membership costs £52 for which you get 4 free tickets, a £2 discount of every ticket purchased after that plus a 10% discount on food and drink (which goes up to 20% if you renew after 12 months). Great value for someone who loves to come to the cinema. And, if you sign up before June 30th 2021 you get a 30% discount which is amazing!
Is there a particular film you feel excited to show on the big screen when you reopen whether that’s a classic or a new release?
There are so many films I am excited about that will be coming out now. We have a backlog of a whole years worth of releases in addition to all those titles slated for this year anyway. So there will be something for everyone almost every week! Personally, I can’t wait to see The Father with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman, but I also like a blockbuster and you can’t go wrong with a bit of James Bond – so No Time To Die is high on my watchlist.
You’ve previously run series on the likes of Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick, are there any directors you are particularly keen to run series on?
I love the seasons we run, and as a real cinephile I am happy to see seasons on anything. It is great when we do these retrospectives because you get to see films on the big screen that you will only have had the opportunity to watch on the small screen. I am a particular fan of Spielberg so a season of his films would be fantastic.
Which films for the remainder of the year particularly excite you personally?
Being a bit older than most of my team (!) I clearly remember seeing Top Gun in the ’80s. I am feeling nostalgic and excited for Tom Cruise to return in Top Gun: Maverick later this year.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Exeter Picturehouse?
Exeter Picturehouse is a very friendly and safe place to visit. My team are fantastic and make everyone feel welcome. With the current situation in the world with the pandemic, I can assure customers that we are a very safe place to come. You can relax and let the movies take you away from the stresses we are all going through, even if it is only for a couple of hours.