These days, it seems like every Tom, Dick and Harry with a projector are setting up a cinema club. From the “ironic” movie nights at your trendy local to the last minute gathering at a mate-of-a-mate’s, that starts off as a sophisticated screening of some arthouse film and ends awkwardly with an unnecessarily heated debate about what the recurring eye motif actually symbolised.
But the Second Chance Cinema at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green is a much classier affair. It’s pretty self explanatory; on Wednesdays and Sundays films are screened for those who were too busy to see them when they first hit the flicks. Last month, the lineup included Gravity and Filth, although there are also plans to show classic films and some more niche stuff.
The Town Hall Hotel is amazing. It first opened in 1910 and was built by the best of the best. You get the feeling that no expense was spared on the art deco interior with its marble floors to the mahogany panels.
The Second Chance Cinema is held in the old Council Chamber, a grade I listed room. It’s an intimate space and the seats are the best. They’re over 100 years old and apparently made of Australian oak and British leather. I say they’re super comfy and I now understand why I’ve seen so many old men fall asleep in council meetings.
While you’re reclining in the glorious seats, a perky cinema usher in 1950s garb is handing out cinema treats along with friendly conversation. We had a choice of two popcorn flavours; goats cheese and black pepper or toffee apple, which were both a delight. The novelty chocolate cigarettes are a nice touch they taste a bit like brown candle wax.
The Second Chance Cinema is the sister project of the Backyard Cinema, a pop up film event that started off in a North London garden and has since evolved to bigger outdoor screenings. They’re both the fruit of Dominic Davies’ labours, a guy who wants to make people remember how good cinema can be.
He said: “It’s easy to forget with on demand, Netflix, live streaming, downloading torrents and Ipads in bed. It’s not until you remember the booms of Gravity, or the croup laughter of About Time that you realise cinema really does enhance your viewing.”
The Council chamber certainly does add a little something-something to the viewing experience. It might be the subtle scent of expensive leather or the fact that ordinary folk are rarely privy to such a lavish room that adds to the excitement.
But do remember, the Town Hall Hotel is as swanky as it is beautiful. The bar opens two hours before the film starts, but it’s likely to be full of well-dressed business men chatting strategy, while drinking cocktails and expensive, crystal filtered water. But don’t worry, they’re not there for the film.
If you’re dressed fancy and delight in cocktails, it’s perfect for you. However, after rocking up in my mom jeans, I discovered it was six quid for a beer and the only food on the bar menu was nuts. So I dashed round the corner for a quick Korean feast and headed back just before show time.