Huddled on a small and unassuming street in the center of Birmingham is the oldest working cinema in the United Kingdom.
Not knowing about The Electric, you just might pass it by. Not knowing about The Electric would also be a grave mistake for any film enthusiast.
The Electric is not only the last remaining independent cinema in Birmingham, but it also promises a one of a kind experience. From the moment you walk in, till the time you leave, The Electric takes you back to a time when multiplexes didn’t exist, and the old-world charm hangs ever so subtly in the air.
Over the decades the theater has had quite a few transformations and name changes, but its new avatar is by far the best in my 20 odd years of knowing of its existence.
The Electric is small. Two cinema screens with a tiny small lobby area housing a bar and the ticket counter. Upon arrival, it seems a tad claustrophobic, probably because one has become so accustomed to the huge lobbies and multiple ticket counters at multiplexes. Slowly, but surely, as you discover the small nooks and corners, this feeling of claustrophobia converts into one of coziness.
All the spaces within the theater are utilized to the max with tables and chairs giving the interiors an almost homey feeling – an entrance to your own private home theater if you may.
The staff is genuine, and one can actually have a conversation on films with them. That distance or hurriedness that is often felt at multi-screen theaters is replaced by service-with-a-smile. The fact that The Electric sells my favourite film magazine – Little White Lies – makes it all the more a lovely place.
The experience that is The Electric starts from the moment you buy the ticket, or should I say the ticket stub, which is genuinely a classic touch. The next bit of surprise for me was when the well-stocked bar – yes, they serve alcohol – served me cola in an old-fashioned glass-bottle along with a glass full of ice and a slice of lime. There was no plastic in sight and that my friends is underrated sophistication.
The seats though aren’t your super comfy sliding types with cup holders, and it is a bit like sitting in the economy class of any airline, wherein, if you are in for a long flight – movie – it does feel a little cramped. Having said that, the seats are comfortable enough even if a bit of space would have been appreciated.
If you are in the mood to spend a little extra, you can always opt for the “couches” which engulf you in the lap of comfortable luxury along with an SMS service that lets you order food/drink without moving an inch.
Now, the tickets are slightly expensive as it is, so although you pay about a pound more than usual, the idea is to support the local independent cinema, and the atmosphere is by far worth the extra cash.
The fact that I saw Senna – favorite documentary/film of all time – on my first visit to The Electric, amplified this experience even more.
Another aspect of The Electric that impressed me was that it is a theater that is not afraid to experiment.
It started hosting the Shock and Gore festival in 2011, promoting a fun event that the locals can enjoy. Such events are an excellent way to bring the community together and simultaneously support the art of cinema in all its forms.
So, the next time you are in Birmingham, take a slight detour to visit The Electric and definitely watch a movie there for a fantastic experience.