18A Market Street, Wotton-Under-Edge, GL12 7AE | (01453) 844601
The Wotton Electric Picture House in Wotton-Under-Edge is a 100-seat cinema offering film lovers with the chance to see a wide range of titles in a relaxed, friendly, modern and comfortable environment.
From famous patrons to free chocolates, Wotton Electric Picture House is not your average cinema, but more of a high-tech home from home, offering film buffs an intimate retreat in the centre of Wotton-under-Edge.
The polite ‘no popcorn’ notice was a telltale sign, as was the little basket of Quality Street free for filmgoers and the distinct lack of big screen advertising showing before the feature presentation – Wotton Electric Picture House is not your run-of-the-mill multiplex, and it has no desire to be so either.
When the cinema was unexpectedly closed down in 2002, a group of Wotton residents launched an appeal to save this hub of the community. Energetic fundraising and an extensive refurbishment, which would make the Changing Rooms team exceptionally proud, later and the Electric Picture House opened to the public once more in 2005.
Four years on – having officially welcomed its 50,000 visitor through its doors in March – two squared-eyed members of the SoGlos.com team prepared to take their places in the 100 plump blue velveteen seats lined-up in the auditorium.
With long curtains draped cosily along the sides of the modern cinema, and a slideshow of holiday snaps popping up to a soundtrack of Moby before the trailers started, the Electric Picture House instilled a sense of being in a larger than life living room, which as the lights dimmed we instantly felt relaxed and, well, at home in.
The big screen dominating one wall of the cinema would put most footballers’ plasma televisions to shame, however, with the ultra modern high-definition digital projector given to the cinema by the Film Council putting pay to the living room comparisons!
Having been warmly welcomed and sold fizzy drinks by a handful of helpful volunteers in the oak-beamed box office minutes before, we were amongst a small, but perfectly formed audience settling down to watch Synecdoche, New York – a film which fell on the art house side of the cinematic spectrum, absent from the schedules of most mainstream venues.
While the big blockbusters and ubiquitous family flicks often arrive a week or so after national release, even a cursory flick through the weekly programme shows a commitment to eclecticism, with world cinema and black and white classics rubbing shoulders with animations and action titles.
It’s this diverse line-up which largely explains the Electric Picture House’s popularity with Wotton locals and those travelling from miles around. It was on Wotton Electric’s big screen that Catherine Johnson, the writer of both the play and film Mamma Mia!, first took her parents to see the Hollywood musical, in fact – resulting in the local luminary becoming a patron of the cinema.
As a smattering of the film’s wry jokes appeared vividly on the crystal clear screen, polite laughter soon filled the auditorium, sweet wrappers were quietly rustled and comments whispered – with the conscientiousness extending to one chap in front positively crawling on his hands and knees not to block the view on a trip to the toilet!
And, after 124 minutes of wide-eyed watching and pitch perfect surround sound, particularly aware that all the ‘staff’ had volunteered to be there, every single person in the cinema stood up and scoured the floor for litter, before leaving the place looking spotlessly clean – explaining the popcorn aversion, perhaps.
With a history spanning almost a century, and an innovative re-opening as one of the very first fully-digital cinemas in the UK, Wotton Electric Picture House is a celebration of old and new, as well as an inimitable example of community achievement. With tickets costing £5.80, or £4.80 for concessions, the cost of a trip to the pictures might not be miles away from what you’d expect to pay elsewhere, but the experience certainly is unique.
By Michelle Fyrne
Monday 03 August 2009