© 2015 Sarah O'Connell. Get in touch!
Secret Cinema has tackled some of the most iconic films of all time, such as The Shawshank Redemption and Laurence of Arabia. Brought to life with immersive experiences that include actors, props, giant sets and special effects, fans are transported into the world of the films that they love.
In 2014 they launched their most ambitious production yet - Back to the Future. Recreating Hill Valley in all its glory, you could visit the shops, attend the Enchantment under the sea dance, ride a Ferris wheel and watch Doc Brown triumphantly fly down a zip line from the top of the clock tower. The experience from start to finish was incredible, which made anticipation of their next show even greater.
When it was announced that their next event would be Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, excitement reached fever pitch with tickets selling very fast. Prices have dramatically more than doubled over the past 2 years, but off the back of Back to the Future, it was seemingly a chance worth taking.
Secret Cinema events aren't just passive events where you watch the action unfold; they make you a part of it. Assigned with a unique Rebel X name (mine was Gant Mundo), I was part of the Creative Council and had to dress accordingly. All wearing scarves, we had to be smuggled in with our faces covered as to not draw unwanted attention. After an impressive introduction, we arrived at a very familiar Star Wars location. It's recommended to explore and speak to locals, as you may end up on some unexpected side quests. The actors never break character either, so you can have some fun with them. At a certain point, we were ushered to a second area with a completely different setting. There was little direction or seemingly enough to do there though, allowing boredom to creep in. Still, a few memorable set-pieces stopped it from being entirely pointless.
Where things really started to go downhill was the film screening itself. With the memory of watching Back to the Future projected onto a giant set, surrounded by a living, breathing Hill Valley, this certainly didn't live up to its premium price tag. Gone were the incredible stunts, special effects and lengthy crowd-pleasing recreations. Instead, actors only appeared for a few brief scenes, while action was punctuated by flashing lights and a bit of fog. The environment itself was much smaller too, quite generic and unspectacular. On the plus side, the audience got to sit down on chairs this time. Though it lacked the atmosphere and magic of sitting between thousands of 1950s dressed revellers, singing, clapping, and cheering.
There is a final surprise after the film for those able to hang around and party Star Wars style a little longer.
Secret Cinema's Empire Strikes Back event is ambitious and does feature some great creative flourishes, but the force-choking price tag and lack of direction makes it only recommended for the most passionate of Star Wars fans. If anything, they are a victim of their own success, having set an impossibly high bench mark in 2014. Even still, anyone without Republic credits to burn may leave a galaxy far, far away feeling a bit disappointed.
By Sarah O'Connell on 16th June 2015