Guest blogger Chiara Pannazzo takes some independent cinema virgins on a revelatory visit to Edinburgh's Filmhouse
all text and images by Chiara Pannazzo
As a lover of arthouse cinema, in my circle I am in the minority. With the tide of change away from the global to the local, I sensed it was time to tackle my friends’ preconceptions of arthouse cinema!
I chose Filmhouse in Edinburgh as my experimental habitat, inviting four arthouse cinema and Filmhouse virgins for a night of international splendour. As we moved through the foyer into the bar area, I could sense the group were surprised by the energy and general buzz throughout the cinema. “I’d never been to The Filmhouse before, as I felt a bit intimidated by the genre of films they show,” said Elaine, a 24 year old teacher, “and I had no idea that they also showed more mainstream films.”
As well as three film screens, Filmhouse has a deservedly popular bar and restaurant, serving a range of food and drinks, from spicy lamb curries, to beautiful vegetarian stews. Robert, a 27 year old technical support analyst, spoke of his surprise at the restaurant and bar facilities. “I had no idea that Filmhouse served food! It would be great to come here for a meal first and then go into watch the film,” he said. As we struggled to find a seat in the bar, he commented on the number of people enjoying the wider experience that is Filmhouse - “ The atmosphere is really good,” he said.
As we left the bar and moved through to the screen, I could tell that my friends were upbeat about Filmhouse, and from their comfy seats, happy to allow Diego Luna’s Abel to take centre stage. As I had chosen the spectacle on their behalf, I spent almost as much time watching their reactions to the film, as I did sympathising with Abel’s troubles. However, what I did notice was that every time I laughed, they laughed, and each time I gasped, they gasped. So far, so good!
As we left the screen for our second visit to the bar, I was desperate to hear their verdict. First and foremost, all four of my friends enjoyed the overall Filmhouse experience, and would visit again. “It’s much more intimate than the cinemas I usually go to,” said Elaine. “They have a much better range of facilities than more mainstream cinemas,” said Louise, a 26 year account manager. “I like the restaurant, and the shop. Being able to buy DVDs from the cinema is an added bonus,” she says.
Breaking down the barriers
Despite the fact that all four of my friends were in agreement that the overall Filmhouse experience was more enjoyable than a trip to a mainstream cinema, I wanted to know if that would be enough to keep them coming back. Rob was positive – and surprising. “I have really enjoyed tonight. The film was really good and I would definitely come here again, because you introduced us to it. If you hadn’t brought us here, I don’t think I would have come!” he said. My friends agreed with him. “I feel that both Filmhouse and the films they show need better promotion,” said Craig. “If they were to upload trailers onto their Facebook page, I think that would encourage more people to go.” Louise had a slightly different strategy for getting more people through the door, “Promotions! I would definitely come here much more if they had occasional financial incentives. Everyone loves a two for one,” she says.
My experiment concluded, I came away with some interesting insights. Over the course of a few hours, I was able to help a small group of people eliminate barriers to an experience that they could regularly be enjoying. In turn, they were able to help me continue to understand the power of social media. All four of them were very keen to see trailers and incentives being used regularly on Filmhouse Facebook page - this would push them towards seeing more European arthouse cinema, and of course, more regularly frequenting Filmhouse.
You can find the Filmhouse at: