Redbrick Arts: Secret Birmingham

It’s not every day that you stumble upon a new artsy gem almost by accident.  Birmingham’s The Electric in Station Street is the oldest working cinema in the UK, predating its Notting Hill namesake by two months.  Situated a short two minute walk from New Street station, it is so close to the hustle and bustle of this modern city that we call home yet the renovation and restoration of the cinema in 2004 to its 1930s Art Deco look transports you back decades. 

Celebrating its centenary year last December, the cinema has seen many a change since its opening in 1909.  The Electric, which originally showed silent movies, served as a news theatre during World War II and has progressed from showing mainly art house and continental pictures to the large variety of independent and intelligent mainstream films that we see today, even indulging in a stint of pornographic film showings in the 1970s.  

The screen rooms themselves house rows of vintage-seeming red velvet chairs with a section of sofa seating at the back; each sofa named after one of the cinema greats, ‘Laurel’, ‘Hardy’ and ‘Dietrich’ for example.  The ‘Text Waiter Service’ available to those in the sofa seating teamed with the intimate atmosphere makes The Electric stand out from the more commercialised cinema that we may visit on a more regular basis.  The concession discount (yes for NUS!) and fact that we should take advantage of the only independent cinema left in the city today makes The Electric a must-visit.  Whether you want a one-off film, the big latest release or the occasional poster sale, make sure you get down to The Electric at some point this term.  For more details go to www.theelectric.co.uk. 

 Printed in Redbrick: 5th February 2010

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