The New Pictureville

“Pictureville is the new name for cinema at the National Science and Media Museum from 1 November 2019.”

The change over follows the decision by Picturehouse to end the contract for running the three auditorium at the Museum; finishing on October 31st. Rather late in the day the Museum is now  providing information regarding the new provision; (the main page has links to specific items). As promised there will be  a membership scheme which is similar to that operated by Picturehouse. The ‘Silver Screen’ provision will continue, but only Thursday mornings (predominantly senior citizens) will continue to have refreshment included in the tickets.  There is a slight increase in prices. Opening times will remain the same but the Pictureville Bar will only open at 1 p.m.

However, there is little information regarding the most important issue, what will be in the programme. The only titles mentioned are the new Star Wars and Shaun the Sheep, plus some  Event Cinemas. It turns out that the Museum will run the cinemas but not programme them. They have contracted with INDY Cinema Group:

“We run your film programming and day-to-day cinema operations, working behind the scenes to make everything seamless – so you can  focus on the business.”

The company already programme for or in association with The Leeds International Film Festival (and indeed that in Edinburgh) which would suggest a familiarity with and arrangements across the Global Cinema scene. But they seem to specialise in ‘Pop-Up Cinema’; and in my experience these do not usually have theatrical standard projection. The site lists cinemas they work with but not one close to West Yorkshire. The Museum pages proudly refers to their provision of IMAX, 70mm, 35mm and 4K Digital. I am not sure how much experience INDY have with the first three formats; on their Web Pages the only illustration was of a standard digital projector.

The 2019 ‘Widescreen Weekend’

So it is a case of wait and see. It would help if the Museum provided more information on the forthcoming programme, less than a week away. They have not offered an explanation of how the contract with INDY will operate. I do have reservations regarding this sort of set-up. Apart from the distance between the programmers and the audience, geographically and in awareness, I think this sort of servicing can lead to a rather uniform programming across venues. That was certainly the case with Picturehouse. The Hyde Park Picture House, whilst its recent programme is less varied than in the past, continues to include screenings not available generally. Rosie from Eire earlier in the year was one example. And more recently, Menelik Shabazz’s Pharaohs Unveiled was another example. But the Hyde Park closes in January 2020 for the year-long development plan; so the Museum may be the only beacon in a world of cinematic darkness.

I hope that the Museum will at least continue one helpful practice by the Picturehouse Staff (who are transferring back to the Museum); the provision of accessible listings which included the format of the film and indicated which auditorium would be used. 70mm in Pictureville remains the peak of cinema-going in West Yorkshire.

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Note, the Museum WebPage still has no information on tne programme from November 1st. However, if you sign up for the Newsletter you can access  a page with such information. Lined up are titles already in release: Shaun the Sheep, Official Secrets, Judy …….: there is a new release, Ken Loach’s Sorry We missed You: IMAX titles including several Star Wars episodes and Terminator; and events called ‘Live Cinema’. So far there is no sign of the titles Roy expressed concern about [in a comment], from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia and South America.

If you check the ‘booking’ function you cna identify the auditorium but by the seating plan rather than the name of the of either Pictureville or Cubby Broccoli. There is no indication that information on formats, apart from IMAX, is provided

Note, if you are already signed up for Musuem Newsletter you proably need to sign up afresh; I had to in order to see this information.

2 comments

  1. Roy Stafford

    I’ve been assured that these guys know what they are doing and they currently work with several venues/festivals I know, especially in Scotland. On the other hand, their website doesn’t immediately fill me with confidence since it displays a great deal of engagement with US arthouses and UK community projects but I couldn’t find much interest in Europe, Asia, Africa or even Australasia given what we are told about their activities. Still, I won’t be judging before we see a few months of programming. It’s a bit tight with the Museum not yet announcing any films beyond October 31st.

  2. keith1942

    Roy is right about the late publicity. And this repeats the Museum’s failings when Picturehouse took on programming. I worry that the Museum managers do not really take this problem on board. I was at a semianr attended by a Senior Manager from the Museum. I challenged him regarding the lack of information before the advent of Picturehouse at the Musuem. He claimed that there had been an information sesion for audiences in Pictureville beforehand. When i checked it turned out that a staff member turned up at the Thursday morning ‘Silver Screen’ and assured the audience that the facility would continue afer the change-over. A similar event ocurred last week. There was no mnetion of INDY or the likely programming!

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