Scalarama and the Dearth of Repertory Cinema

So I blinked and missed most of September. The acceleration of time alarms me (because I have a PhD to finish), but it also saddens me because I miss so many wonderful things happening on my doorstep. Things like the Scalarama month of cult cinema screenings.

See! I even had the full newsprint programme!

See! I even had the full newsprint programme!

Scalarama is a UK-wide event, though it has a few hubs in the usual places: London, Bristol, Manchester and – well, what d’ya know? – Nottingham! In collaboration with Cinema Diabolique, a community cinema collective who specialise in cult, Scalarama has had no fewer than 35 events in Notts. Some of Scalarama’s ‘core programme’ has been screened in the Broadway Cinema, but most events have been in the small community cinema space Screen 22.

(There are some events left thus coming weekend, click here for a pdf of the complete nationwide programme.)

Now, truth be told, Cinema Diabolique’s preference for ‘cinema’s varied and fascinating wasteland’ of B-movies and the like isn’t really my bag. I enjoy that kind of thing when I see it, but only see it from time to time and that suits me just fine. Equally, I am ambivalent about the current trend for ‘immersive’ cinema events such as the kind that Scalarama and others promote – for me, the film is always The Thing, but I must admit I do enjoy theatrics and gimmicks (and I have managed my fair share of film events), so I will happily singalong and sniff-along as suits the screening. Moreover, I am very supportive of the efforts of indie community cinema groups keeping the spirit of repertory cinema alive.


It is increasingly rare to find a cinema in the UK with a truly repertory programme, like that of the old Scala in Kings Cross that inspired Scalarama (the venue survives but the cinema does not). In fact, the programming of cinema nowadays, including art house and independent cinemas, is usually done by one a handful of centralised companies operating under contract. The Broadway is one of the few art house cinemas left with its own team of in-house programmers. The realities of cinema economics also means that even if a cinema is fully in charge of its own programme, it can’t afford too many repertory screenings. One-off or limited screenings of older or more obscure films usually entail more expenditure (screening rights, overheads) and less revenue (ticket sales, merchandise). So now the job of publicly screening films curated from the wealth of cinema history has been left to the devotees and cinephiles who run community screenings. These groups are assisted by organisations like Cinema For All, but really they need audiences to thrive.

Therefore, I apologise for not taking advantage of the Scalarama/Cinema Diabolique month of film screenings in Nottingham. As recompense, I have now booked two tickets to see The Visitor tomorrow. I’m told that I am in for a treat.

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