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Lights, camera, action!

With its central location, diverse programming and friendly atmosphere, Greenwich Picturehouse offers film enthusiasts a superior cinema experience. We take a look at what goes on behind the screen

Relaxing in the comfort of the upstairs bar and enjoying the view of St Alfege Church, it becomes apparent that Greenwich Picturehouse is not your average cinema.

It is here that I meet Joe Filbee; duty manager, branch marketing manager and, for today, tour guide. Leading me through the building to the first projection room, Joe is more than happy to share some of the reasons he feels the Picturehouse is such an attractive venue. “First of all, it’s the location, being in the middle of Greenwich. It’s a building that you notice with the glass front, and our main selling point (apart from our programming, which is more art house and world cinema) is probably our seats as well – they’re probably the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in.”

Built in 2005, the Picturehouse draws cinema fans from far and wide who come to enjoy a good film, a bottle of wine and the friendly atmosphere. There’s a feeling that the customer base is more patrons than punters, as Joe explains: “We do have loads of regular customers who know the staff by name, and we’ve come to rely on them. Especially during the day, they come in on their own or they come in with a friend and they like to have a chat about film or about what they saw last weekend, and all our staff are really good at that because they’ve all got personalities. They’re very friendly and know about the films. I think people like to have that kind of experience.”

And the content on display at the Picturehouse is definitely worthy of discussion. As well as showing the current blockbusters, there’s very much a focus on “alternative content”. The live links to the National Theatre and New York’s Metropolitan Opera have really taken off in popularity in the years they have been running. The Screen Arts Festival combines the best content with additional ballet, opera and theatre and runs over a two-month period during the summer. Meanwhile, the Reminiscent Screenings of Ealing Comedy-era classics help to keep the history of cinematography alive. The Picturehouse is also beginning to make the move into distributing its own material – recent releases include The Future and My Afternoons with Margueritte.

However, this is not to suggest that highbrow content is all there is on offer, since accessibility to the community is also of key importance. Hard-of-hearing and autism-friendly showings are regularly available, there’s a Kid’s Club, and student membership is available, too. Several events also take place with audience inclusion in mind, such as a monthly film quiz and several screening events that have Q&A sessions attached. Picturehouse Docs, a series of documentaries commissioned by the Picturehouse, is part of this initiative, with productions such as the critically acclaimed Tory Boy being shown accompanied by discussions with the directors.

And our on-hand professional’s favourite film? “Jaws. I think your favourite films have to be ones that you’d want to put on again and again – and I watch Jaws at least twice a year. The most successful films I think we’ve had here were The Da Vinci Code and Sex and the City. Those two did phenomenally well,” Joe chuckles. “And The King’s Speech got a standing ovation. It’s so rare these days for an audience to stand up and clap at the end of a film; it’s unheard of.”

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