FILM – Local Cinema Clubs

Cinema Clubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh


Back in the 70s, in places such as New York and San Francisco, theatres called grindhouses appeared. They were small, fleapit cinemas where you could see the latest low budget exploitation pictures, Kung Fu movies and other assorted weird and wonderful cult cinema. This era, for the people who experienced it, and those who grew up romanticising and fantasising about it (such as myself) was a golden age for every type of film. Nowadays, film club screenings of cult cinema – in theatres and anywhere that can house a small screen – are exploding and recreating the wonder of those times.

There are so many pop-up screenings and film clubs emerging that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Some I need to check out are Leith Cult Film Club, which just screened Zardoz (with the greatest mankini ever to grace the screen, sported by Sean Connery) and Glasgow’s Yikes Film Club, whose next screening is the Chris Morris political comedy Four Lions.

My most recent experience occurred after seeing a poster for Glasgow-based Venom Mob Film Club, advertising their showing of notorious Japanese Samurai exploitation film, Shogun Assassin.
As a teenager I saw this film for the first time, and it blew my mind. Despite having seen the movie many times, I had to catch this screening in the Flying Duck. I was surprised to see it was sold out.

I’ve always been on the lookout for fellow martial arts movie fans in Scotland, and so was delighted to catch up with Venom Mob’s Johnny Docherty (bassist in Twilight Sad) and Chuck O’ Donnell. We discussed a variety of martial arts films, such as cheese-fest American Ninja 5: The Annihilation and the Flying Duck’s next screening, art-house Samurai flick Zatoichi. The guys seemed humbled and inspired by the growing film club scene.

“We were like, can we do a film club just based around this genre? And suddenly all the other film clubs were following us and really supportive.” Chuck muses. “We also wanted to tie in the food thing, we wanted to get along our pals and others, eat a bowl of noodles and watch a Kung Fu movie!” Venom Mob Film Club do a ticket deal for a tenner; you can see the movie and get fed with a bowl of tasty vegan ramen or pho.

Venom Mob’s screenings are in association with Matchbox Cineclub, an independent distributor which works tirelessly to produce and promote such events. Under their roster are such wildly popular events as Cage-a-rama, Europe’s longest running Nicolas Cage festival, and Keanu-con, the first Keanu Reeves film festival, both at the CCA Glasgow.

“Crucially, they’re a lot more affordable than mainstream screenings.” explains Matchbox main man Sean Welsh. “And on one hand, audiences are thirsty for unfamiliar, interesting events, while on the other they’re looking for a like-minded community for things they love.” It’s this passion that fuels the film club scene, and a knowledge that there is an audience for cult curios just as much as a movie like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Across the way in Edinburgh, film club Cinetopia has been making a name for itself in the local film community. With special event screenings in the Leith Theatre (I caught the 90’s classic Home Alone here before Christmas), networking nights and a radio show, Cinetopia aim for inclusion, with all types of cinema-goer encouraged to get involved. “We don’t just programme for our own tastes; we programme for what the community wants to see. We literally ask our members and audience what we should play.” This spirit of openness is significant – it means that anyone can realise the dream of seeing a film they always wanted to see on the big screen.

Both Cinetopia and Matchbox Cineclub have strong connections with Scalarama, a creative collective which organizes and celebrates movie club screenings. Each September, Scalarama coordinates a month-long event in which cinemas, clubs and festivals join to show a huge array of movies, in the spirit of the Scala cinema in London, which closed its doors in 1993. I grew up hearing about the infamous and mystical Scala and its screenings of old school Kung Fu films, which recreated the beauty of 70s-style cinema experiences. Anything that harks back to that time and place, immediately has my attention.

When speaking with these film clubs, it was clear their passion, spirit of inclusion and support for each other was purposely strong. Johnny Docherty explains, “Everyone started following us and were curious about what we were doing. We couldn’t have been supported any better by the film club scene.” The guys from Cinetopia aim for “a greater link between the film-making community and the film exhibition community…we should all be in the same room talking about the thing we love – film.”

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