A Love Letter to Independent Cinemas

Moving to Sheffield for my first year of university was, safe to say, a bit of a culture shock for me.

I come from a little town called Darlington which, in terms of cinema, doesn’t really get a whole lot beyond the biggest Hollywood films. So a cinema like the Showroom was virtually unconcievable to me. But I wanted to take a little while to write about what makes the Showroom great because, without it, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now.

The Showroom is tucked away on the edge of the city centre, right next to the train station, but the city’s real cinephiles will be drawn to it like moths to a dancing flame. It’s a gorgeous old building; with its bright neon “S” made from 35mm film, it evokes those old-fashioned picture houses of the 50s, when an old man with a ladder had to spell out the names of the day’s screenings by hand.

It’s a feeling that continues when you go inside; everything’s decked out in wood, and there’s a lovely little café/restaurant where you can sit, sip a coffee and watch the world go by. There’s no concession of the modern cinema experience here; you can buy ice cream, but it’s all home-made, and good luck finding a hotdog or a box of nachos.

The screens are lovely, too – good old-fashioned seats without a cupholder in sight. There’s only 4 of them, but they’re decent sizes – two small ones upstairs, two larger ones down – which means that tiny arthouse films will feel at home as much as big-budget blockbusters.

Which is good, because the selection is frankly enormous . The staff work like mad to screen up to a dozen different films every day on their four screens, and everything under the sun has been shown on those projectors. In the year that I’ve lived here, I’ve seen compelling documentaries like Searching for Sugar Man, foreign language films like Entre Les Murs and the new French comedy Untouchable (which is handy since I study French here) and even got to a one day only screening of the Nazi-filled sci-fi smash hit Iron Sky. 

And it’s not just a wide selection of films that make the Showroom great. It’s been the host to screenings of National Theatre performances, gigs by bands like Sheffield’s own Arctic Monkeys, and world-renowned festivals like Celluloid Screams and Doc/Fest. It’s even  been used as a set – the infamous scene in Four Lions where two idiotic snipers argue about whether a Wookie is a bear was filmed on its roof.

The Showroom has more soul than 1,000 Odeons, and it’s one of those cinemas that makes you fall in love with films. It worked on me – after watching films at the Showroom I was inspired to write for my student newspaper. A year later, I’m the editor of its screen section, and I write for websites like Yuppee. In another few years, who knows?

So thank you, Showroom, for starting the whole thing off.

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