Backyard cinema – where camp, creativity and whimsy collide

Backyard Cinema
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Backyard Cinema, the immersive cinema experience in London has reopened its boarding gates since lockdown, and is truly a collision of camp, creativity and whimsy.

The team at Backyard Cinema kindly invited us to attend the relaunch in late May post-covid lockdown.

Backyard Cinema history

Backyard Cinema, originally a passion project in its founders’ very own back garden, has grown to be an immersive cinema experience in London. The Backyard Cinema team has historically taken over underused/under-utilised spaces in London, part of the ‘meanwhile space’ market, which we see as a crucial method of reusing and reinvigorating existing infrastructure and local areas. Their current and more longterm venue is based at Capital Studios in Wandsworth, south London, where the team behind Backyard Cinema have converted the previously derelict space (that was once home to the set of Ready Steady Cook) to maximise their immersive experience.

Immersive cinema experience

Two screen and immersive spaces have been created on themes of “LA Nights” and “Miami Beach”, each transport customers to another world.

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Visitors to LA Nights will find themselves at an airport check-in counter. The check-in clerk will verify customer tickets ( ‘boarding pass’) who will then direct customers through to a fully decked out airport lounge complete with split flap departure board. There is no champagne, but the wait for the plane is only a five minutes. Guests are then boarded onto a plane – yes, an actual plane in Wandsworth! To get customers in the mood, and escape whatever may be happening in the outside world, a camp and whimsical performance by ‘cabin crew’ takes place for the 5 minute flight to LA. On arrival, customers disembark and will find themselves in the LA Nights cinema space with comfy double beanbag seats laid out. A floor of sand and themed décor, adds to the camp flair, meaning customers are truly immersed before their film of choice starts.

The Miami Beach experience is equally as compelling, with the storyline being arrival at ‘Miami Beach Hotel’, going through a ‘check-in’ experience before heading to the Flamingo Beach Bar for a glass of Prosecco and then onwards to the Miami Beach screen.

Customers are encouraged to arrive up to 90 minutes before the film start time to enjoy food and drinks in the shared indoor/outdoor yard with a bar, and food offerings from Honest Burger, an artisan pizza venue. One observation is that for a sold-out night there were not enough customer service staff to take orders, meaning a long wait on drinks.

Head back to your booked screen experience and find your bean bags for the film, leaving time to purchase a drink for the film from the bar inside the screen area.

The films

Backyard Cinema have licensed a number of films, from classic comedies (like Clueless and Mean Girls), family favourites from Disney and Warner Bros, and LGBT films including Moonlight, and Kinky Boots. On their website, customers choose their screen experience (LA Nights or Miami Nights) and then the film they want to see for a particular date

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In addition to the Capital Studios space, Backyard Cinema are also taking over Union Chapel in Islington for a week in August 2021 for screenings of Romeo + Juliet.

Overall thoughts

The Backyard Cinema team have created something special and unique by reusing the previously derelict Capital Studios space. The energy from the actors playing cabin crew (of LA Nights) and hotel check-in staff (of Miami Nights) was an infectious positivity. A child-like imagination has been captured and converted into a camp, creative and whimsical fantasy cinema experience.

Like many other venues in the hospitality sector in London, given the combination of Brexit and covid-lockdown, there has been a vast reduction in customer service staff, and at Backyard Cinema we noted the effects of this on long waits for drinks orders. We hope this will improve over the coming weeks.

Location: Capital Studios, 13 Wandsworth Plain, London, SW18 1ET

For more information and to book, visit backyardcinema.co.uk

About Tim Firmager

Tim divides his time being a Digital Consultant in The City and as a food and travel writer across the globe. When he's not working as one of the Lifestyle Editors here at Vada, he's planning his next trip, or on the lookout for the latest food crazes or unusual foods in London's markets.