Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Welcome... to Jurassic Park
Picturehouse Central

Last week, I and 26 real journalists were given a preview tour of London's newest cinema, the seven-screen Picturehouse Central, located in the heart of our fair capital's delightful West End. Having watched Jurassic Park (and indeed The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III and Jurassic World) only a few days before, I couldn't help but liken the experience to that of Alan Grant and chums all those years ago as they were shown around another partially-constructed, exciting new venture designed to entertain tourists with loud noises and the occasional appearance of Jeff Goldblum.

Praying that I didn't get gobbled while on the toilet (fnerk), I donned my neckerchief and scowled heroically towards Piccadilly Circus, stopping only to educate a tubby young chap on the dangers of disrespecting cinema ushers, whom he rather impertinently referred to as "six foot turkeys". It's possible I didn't need to slice him open and spill his guts all over the entrance to Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum, but with kids these days you've got to speak their language.

This is Piccadilly Circus, home to Eros, the god of crass neon marketing. He stands guard over the giant videowall and will fire arrows at anyone who says "Cuh, it's like Piccadilly Circus round 'ere!" Anyway Picturehouse Central is just up there and to the right. You can't see it in this picture, I'm setting the scene, like those wide shots of Isla Nublar near the beginning of Jurassic Park.

I had a little trouble locating Picturehouse Central because it was hiding behind this white van. As you can see, work hasn't been entirely completed yet. I mentioned that they might want to remove the van to enable easy access and I was assured that the van would not be a permanent fixture.

From the street, you enter this delightful café, which is open to any Tom, Dick or Harry who happens to be passing. I mean they will literally let anyone in. Even you, in those shoes.

I was hoping for Alejandro's Chilean sea bass, but I had to make do with this selection of pastries. I have learned over the last few years that the quality of any given press event can be dramatically influenced by the quality of pastries on offer, and it gives me immense pleasure to say that the cinnamon buns at Picturehouse Central are absolutely fucking incredible. Alejandro can stick his Chilean sea bass up his Chilean sea ass.

A mural circles the entire café and climbs the staircase, depicting the history of cinema through the eyes of artist Patrick Vale. It is absolutely bonkers in all the best ways.

Here's Patrick literally muralling while we watched. Those are some seriously fresh murals.

This lady is Clare Binns, Director of Programming and Acquisitions at Picturehouse. She is the John Hammond of Picturehouse Central, minus the beard and the almost-Scottish accent. I suggested to her that she was so preoccupied with whether or not she could that she didn't stop to think if she should, and I was politely asked to leave.

Stairs from the café lead up to a bar and the cinema screens. As I arrived, the last of those light bulbs was being screwed in by the only member of Picturehouse staff tall enough to do it; I watched him with the stunned awe of Alan Grant when he first sees the brachiosaur. Do let me know when these Jurassic Park references start to sound forced.

Upstairs is this ruddy big and lovely bar, which is also open to the public.

Visitors of the previous cinema on this site, the unbelievably rank Cineworld Trocadero, will recognise the escalators that lead up to the auditoria, except there are fewer mice riding with you now. These friezes have been here since the turn of the 20th century, and, according to Picturehouse, "have been sensitively relit for future generations to enjoy". Here you can see a member of a future generation enjoying the shit out of those friezes. Look at his little face! Aw.

Each screen has been dedicated to an influential figure in the movies, and Screen 1 is named after Sigourney Weaver. I was a little apprehensive as I entered Sigourney Weaver, but once I was inside Sigourney Weaver I got so excited that I just wanted to keep coming. The seating is raked to avoid even the tallest bonce obscuring your view, the reclining seats are plush as fuck and the projection booth can handle 2K and 4K digital as well as 35mm and 70mm prints. It also boasts Dolby Atmos, with subwoofers on the back wall the size of VW Beetles. There's room for 340 people inside Sigourney Weaver, and every single one of them will withdraw from Sigourney Weaver satisfied. I for one look forward to entering Sigourney Weaver again and again in future.

Here is a close-up of a seat. It is the exact shade of red that all cinema seats should be and has the texture of chenille, which sounds lovely until you learn that "chenille" is French for caterpillar.

If you sit on the row second from the back in one of the smaller screens, you get enough legroom to throw a party in. The feet on the right of this shot are mine, fully stretched out, and they can't even see the seat in front. The feet on the left belong to Telegraph film critic Tim Robey, and even his comically long legs enjoyed their own personal space without molestation.

Up another escalator is a gallery space, currently occupied by these beauties from devastatingly hip film mag Little White Lies. I'll be honest, by this point the tour had pretty much stopped resembling Jurassic Park, no matter how hard I tried.

There's a members' bar further upstairs for members only, so bugger off if you're not a Picturehouse member, we don't want your sort here. It isn't finished yet but the views are quite special. That's Big Ben in the distance, and in the foreground you can just make out some classic London scaffolding.

I didn't take a photo of the escalator on the way down but as we descended, they stopped without warning for a few seconds. It was exactly like when the jeeps stop in Jurassic Park, and I began to think that finally I had something solid to compare the two experiences so this tenuous analogy could actually mean something. Then the escalator started again and we all went home.

And that was the end of the tour. I left with a complimentary bottle of Picturehouse "Centrale", and if you look very carefully you can see what they did there.

Picturehouse Central opens officially this Friday, June 19th, and looks absolutely ruddy great. Details are here, and membership details here if you want to come into the Members' Bar and feel superior to everyone else. See you there! (Do not approach or attempt to talk to me)

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