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A Small Cinema with big screen dreams opens in old Victoria St magistrates

Written by  Larry Neild | Follow @larryneild | Wednesday, 18 March 2015 10:23

Move over Odeon, eat your heart out Fact. Liverpool’s newest cinema is about to open in the unlikely setting of Court Number 8 Eight at the city’s one-time magistrates court in Victoria Street.

It might seem like a script from Ealing , but ex-Liverpool JMU graduate Sam Meech is fulfilling his dream of creating what could be the UK’s smallest cinema.

Meech has test-driven his idea with a pop-up mobile version, the Small Cinema project. Now he is holing court in Victoria Street.

The aim is to understand the relationship of cinema to community...
and question what a future cinema ecology might look like

The new 56-seat venue, called A Small Cinema, will be the star of the show on Thursday when visitors will be able to view the new creative space, as well as watching a documentary of its making and a number of trailers.

The story of its inception has been filmed by Anthony Killick, a PhD candidate in Film and Politics at Edge Hill University, and part of the Liverpool Radical Film Festival team. Killick's short film documents the build and discussing the aims and ethics behind the Liverpool Small Cinema project.

The first film night, proper, will be Friday – an evening of short features from local film-makers.

Meech’s interest in cinema spaces developed from a trip to Berlin, and experiencing the indie kino scene there.  The Small Cinema project emerged aiming to create a new community screening space in Liverpool city centre.

The plan is to host an initial programme of screenings, developed in partnership with local film programmers and writers including Liverpool Radical Film Fest, the Food For Real Film Fest, Elsewhere Cinema,Think Cinema, Chris Brown of the Video Nasties podcast, and Adam Scovell of the Celluloid Wickerman blog.

In addition, a number of local festivals and organisers have already come forward to collaborate on programming events together, including Look Photo fest, Brasilica Festival and the upcoming Light Night.

The cinema space will be hosted by Creative Space Team within the former Magistrates Court on Victoria St, L1, staffed mainly by volunteers. Many of those same volunteers have been working to convert the old courtroom into a functioning screening facility, complete with raked seating and original cinema seats provided by the Stockport Plaza.

A film exhibition aspect of the project has been supported by BFI Film Hub North West Central

The Small Cinema started as a project that collected and shared people’s memories and experiences of cinema, and looking at ways in which the cinema experience can be recreated temporary spaces.

Meech, pictured right, says: “A Small Cinema is an ongoing project exploring what cinema used to be, and what form it might take in the future, through research, events, experiments, film-making and community dialogues.

“The aim is to understand the relationship of cinema to community, to test models of temporary film exhibition, and question what a future cinema ecology might look like."

Sam Meech

Sam Meech

The project began in 2008, as a means to screen artist films in a format that would engage a gallery audience. Since then, Small Cinema has created short film screenings in galleries, empty shop spaces, music venues and even outdoors.

Originally conceived as a showcase event for film-makers in the North West, A Small Cinema has been developed as a community engagement project by artist collective
Re-Dock, facilitating communities in hosting their own short film events.

The name, A Small Cinema, was chosen, says Meech, to imply the existence of an ecology of small cinemas, "something now generally absent in this country".

As Meech commented: “Some cities such as Berlin are lucky in that they have many small movie theatres. A Small Cinema is interested in how a modern city can sustain such an ecology.”