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Prince Charles Cinema

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by David Dragonetti (subscribe)
I love politics (I do realize that there aren't many people like me) and a history buff who also likes nothing better than watching a live comedy.
Published August 26th 2012
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Next time you look at a cartoon, you know, the older ones like the Flintstones or Scooby-Doo, as a character is chased down a street, you'll notice the background scenery is on a loop and repeats itself again and again and again.

Driving through any town in the UK has now pretty much become a like cartoon. Coffee shop chains, fast food "restaurant" chains, and now cinema chains. You see them all again and again and again.

Bland and predictable are the increasingly victorious enemies of sparky individualism. Down one back street however, not far from Leicester Square, there is one little cinema that is still proudly flying the flag of independence and fighting against mediocrity.

The Prince Charles Cinema, said by Quentin Tarantino to be his favourite UK cinema, is a joy of joys for the real cinema buff achieving a sort of cult status as the only independent cinema in London's bustling West End.

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With its two screens (an upstairs seating 104 and a downstairs seating 285), it's refreshing to visit such a cosy cinema that has so much more character than those owned by some huge anonymous corporation. Small is beautiful and the Prince Charles management, unlike the big chains, are pretty much free to show what they like, not just show two dimensional flicks produced in planet Hollywood.

"Iron Sky" was a film made on a shoe string budget about a group of Nazis who escaped to the moon at the end of World War 2. Sounds strange and a bit controversial? You bet it was. But also damn funny to boot. The big multiplexes refused to show it yet, Prince Charles said yes and because they did, the film gained cult popularity status and then went on nationwide release in other independent cinemas

That is the beauty and essence of Prince Charles Cinema, the owners balance showing big budget mainstream films, with the unusual, fun, thought provoking and bizarre. Fascinating films that you simply might never see anywhere else get a chance to be screened at Prince Charles.

Sing-Along to the Sound of Music" has been a regular feature for five years now, as well as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". They even sometimes do an all nighter when they might show back to back all the original Sherlock Holmes or Star Wars films.

Some films even have a question and answer session with the director. Another low budget but none the less hilarious film, "God Bless America" was screened at Prince Charles and hot dogs and Coca Cola were given out free.

Some speakers have no connection to the film industry at all. Tony Juniper (head of Friends of the Earth) and David Milliband (former Foreign Secretary) are two of many famous names who have appeared at Prince Charles.

Built in 1961, the Prince Charles began life as a theatre, before moving sideways to showing porn films. Naked bodies though evidently weren't as popular as covered ones and the Prince Charles changed for one last time to its present role

As with all cinemas, drinks and popcorn are on sale, yet they are sold at cheaper prices than the big chain cinemas that dominate Leicester Square on almost all sides. As these big cinemas are graced by the big stars and the world's media at a film premiere, you then might think the cool and bohemian Prince Charles is the forgotten ugly duckling of cinema world. But then not everyone wants glitz glamour and the bright lights. I doubt the discerning customers who frequent Prince Charles regularly would be seen dead waiting in the early hours in Leicester Square just to glimpse a star as they walk in to a film premiere that evening.

One thing though that attracts the punters is the ticket prices. What you might pay 15 pound for at a multiplex at Prince Charles, you will pay 7 or 8 pound. The earlier in the day, the cheaper the ticket. To save even more money, it's a good idea to become a Prince Charles Cinema Member - that for a small annual outlay of around 14 pound, will mean an 8 pound ticket will now only cost you around 6.

Downstairs has toilets a small bar and various leaflets of cool and unusual events round London. One year Prince Charles was giving out free copies of Bizarre magazine. A magazine full of people who engage in literally the most bizarre pastimes, such as self mutilation. ( I think its highly unlikely the Odeon or Vue is going to also be giving out such magazines any time soon!)

You don't survive long these days without your website, but if you haven't got a computer or smart phone, outside the cinema is always a well stocked leaflet dispenser showing the latest films.

For the cinema going public London is a more colourful place because of the Prince Charles Cinema. Pay it a visit and support those people who support just simply being different.
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Why? Cool cinema in the heart of the West End.
Phone: 020 7494 3654
Where: 7 Leicester Place London WC2H 7BY
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