Fit for a Prince

I must apologise for the brevity of today’s entry. As you can probably see, it was written late at night. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

The reason for the lateness of this entry is that I’ve just got back from the cinema. Seb and I decided to look in on the Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square.

I believe I have mentioned the Prince Charles before. It’s a real gem. One of the last proper old-skool cinemas in London. Not a picture palace, but closer in spirit to that than to the modern multiplex. It’s hardly unique on a countrywide scale, there are plenty of provincial cinemas that are very similar in feel, but in Central London it’s an anachronism.

So I was surprised to learn that it only opened in its current form in 1991. As you can tell from the boxy architecture, it was built in the 1960s. I’ve never understood why it is that in the 1960s, when fashion, literature and music were experiencing incredible revolutions, the architects of the world seemed to have suffered a collective seizure. Be that as it may. The Prince Charles was first a theatre and then a porn cinema which was apparently quite high class as porn cinemas go (I wouldn’t like to speculate how such things are qualified).

Quentin Tarantino, it will surprise no one to hear, is a fan and the bar is named after him. Wikipedia informs me that Kevin Smith has a toilet named after him. Everyone’s a critic.

Seb and I were there for the screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The Prince Charles specialises in older, cult films. At present they’re having a science fiction season, and I rather fancied seeing this one – I loved the new Star Trek film and I thought it would be interesting to see how a film often regarded as the best of the original cast Trek movies would look by comparison. I consider myself a casual Star Trek fan. I know the characters and have some background on the show, but I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore Trekkie by any means.

Anyway. One advantage of the fact that the cinema specialises in older films is that tickets are cheap. Certainly by West End standards, at any rate. Full-price tickets for this particular showing of this particular movie were £6.50. However, we were informed that members only paid £4.00, and membership for a year was £10.00. So basically, within four films you could get your membership fee back. And given the wide variety of films on offer (I’m a sucker for cult cinema), this is very possible. And two membership fees later, we were in.

I have to say, I wasn’t too impressed by the staff on the front desk – they seemed to actively resent the fact that we wanted to buy tickets, I mean, God, what the hell? One of them was openly reading a book that she seemed to be quite into – certainly more than taking my money, at any rate. Seb’s theory was that it was because we were going to see a Star Trek movie and therefore must be, like, really sad.

Inside, the auditorium is what I would really call an auditorium. I mean, it’s huge! It even has a balcony! Everything is red! The screen is bigger than, say, a rug! The film is grainy and occasionally jumpy, but you cease to notice that after  a while. We’ve been spoilt in the digital age, I tell you.

As for the film itself, well, we enjoyed it. William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban leave bite marks all over the scenery, DeForest Kelly gets all the funniest lines and Leonard Nimoy carries himself with gravity and charisma. Kirsty Alley appears in her pre-Scientology, pre-obesity days as a Vulcan. And now I actually get that whole Kobayashi Maru thing they talk about in the new film. Seb and I were thinking of returning for the Star Trek marathon in a few weeks’ time – I’d like to see The Voyage Home and he rates The Undiscovered Country.

This makes us nerds, doesn’t it? O God – the staff were right to show contempt!

Further Reading


1 Comment

Filed under 20th Century, Buildings and architecture, Fashion and trends, Film and TV, London, Soho, West End

One response to “Fit for a Prince

  1. One of the true gems of London, worth preserving, a relic from better days, well the 80s, there were at least half a dozen venues showing anything and everything, the pinnacle being the all nighters at the Scala, a terrible loss to the city.

    Surly staff, hey, £10 membership, £4 tickets, you get what you pay for, geezer. This is Cinema Bastardos! You want the happy smiles? You go to the Cinema Gayboy (with grovelling apologies to “A Fistful of travellers’ checks”)

    But why oh why did they ever stop showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show and now only occasionally screen the “sing-a-long” version. It used to be surreal as the crowd coming out of “Sound of Music” mixed with those queuing up for RHPS; Transylvanians in, nuns out.

    I once sneaked into the end of “Sound of Music” and when the nuns revealed to Mother Superior that they’ve nobbled the Nazis’ cars and said “we have sinned” I called out in true Rocky style “and we want spanking”. Got a big laugh.

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