There is a time and a place for enjoying Leicester Square, but when you have had enough of its all-out assault on your senses, head for its north side and down Leicester Place. Sheltering from the garishness and tacky chain restaurants and bars you will find one of my favourite places in London: The Prince Charles Cinema.
Since coming to London as an undergraduate in 2003, I have seen an eclectic range of films there. My first time was for a selection of French Surrealist shorts. I tipsily went on the spur of the moment from the Student Union bar and found myself confused and not a little revolted. But I overcame that and the Prince Charles is now my cinema of choice.
I have enjoyed current releases like Frost/Nixon, classics such as Black Narcissus and many, many cult favourites along the lines of Barbarella, Grindhouse and The Thing. More recently, I treated my best friend to arguably one of the most perfect films ever created – Some Like It Hot.
Watching Some Like It Hot we all guffawed in unison…
For me, going to the cinema is one of the best uses of my time. It is not just about watching a film. It has nothing to do with enjoying the film – although that helps! – it is about entering a building dedicated to my favourite art form where I can get comfy, suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in someone else’s reality for an hour or two.
I might feel inspired, infuriated, devastated, captivated… whatever its subject or quality, a film will always make me think about things bigger than myself. When at the Prince Charles, I think the rest of the audience feel the same. Watching Some Like It Hot we all guffawed in unison. During the gorier parts of Grindhouse there was synchronised groaning and cringing throughout the packed auditorium.
…did I mention that it is cheap?
I may come across as easily entertained. I cannot deny the truth of that, but I am discerning in my film choices and so is the Prince Charles. There are two screens showing films from all over the world and all periods in cinema history. The schedule is ever-changing and themed seasons (currently Cult Film Season) give you the opportunity to see films on the big screen you could normally only enjoy on DVD.
Oh, and did I mention that it is cheap? Become a member and not only is it even cheaper (I would be willing to bet you won’t find a £4 cinema ticket anywhere else in zones 1-3 in the evening) but you can use your membership card to obtain a discount at a range of local shops and restaurants (see their website for details: www.princecharlescinema.com).
The staff are friendly and there is even a small bar.
The cinema was built in the 1960s and does have its flaws. There is very little room once you get in the front door and it can get crowded. The cubicles in the ladies may as well have been designed with Borrowers in mind – there is so little space. But the cool quirks more than make up for any quibbles.
The downstairs screen is plush, decadent and very red. Upstairs is newer and has a very prettily lit ceiling. The staff are friendly and there is even a small bar. Its central location also means you can move on to anywhere you like after enjoying your film. A trip to The Prince Charles Cinema makes going to the flicks into a real event, and for the discerning student in London, there is no better place to receive some cinematic culture. I highly recommend that you give it a whirl.