As cinema ticket sales continue their slow decline, the UK has seen the rise of a new wave of luxury film-going alternatives. From three-course meals served during screenings, to screens where you can watch a film from the comfort of a sofa, there have been plenty of attempts to make cinema visits more competitive with watching a DVD at home, with ticket prices typically being inflated to compensate.
Now Soho’s Ham Yard Hotel is the latest to try and create a cinema experience free of greasy nachos and slushie machines, having partnered with art-house cinema chain Curzon to deliver film screenings every Sunday. Perhaps wisely, they’ve opted to eschew gimmicks, focussing instead on delivering a traditional cinema trip in some distinctly above-average surroundings.
Opened last year, Ham Yard Hotel sits just north of Piccadilly Circus, a stone’s throw from the established venues of Leicester Square. The hotel boasts a 190-seat cinema and theatre space, bedecked strikingly with electric blue walls, bright fuchsia curtains and orange leather seats. The seats themselves – a crucial element for any cinema positioning itself as ‘luxury’ – are a rare thing: a cinema seat that remains comfortable throughout a 2-hour film, putting the ‘premium’ seats offered by the major chains to shame.
Outside the screen, and reserved exclusively for cinemagoers on Sundays, is the hotel’s Dive Bar. This continues the bold aesthetic, replete with neon signs, oversized wallpaper and an almost ludicrously impractical 30ft tall orange juicer, spiralling up to the balcony above.
For the moment, Ham Yard Hotel hopes to hold three screenings every Sunday, with February’s including Oscar nominees Birdman, The Theory of Everything and Unbroken. Organisers hope to screen classic films as well as new releases, and even the occasional pre-release preview. At £15 a head, tickets sit slightly higher than your average cinema, but are in line with prices at nearby Leicester Square while offering a markedly more pleasant experience.
Without a distinctive feature, it might be hard for Curzon at Ham Yard Hotel to stand out in the increasingly competitive luxury cinema market. But with smart scheduling, slick surroundings and sensible pricing, it’s a very welcome inclusion and well worth a look for anyone who’s fed up of the multiplex.