Prince Charles Cinema
The Prince Charles Cinema (PCC) is a repertory cinema located in Leicester Place, 40 metres north of Leicester Square in the West End of London. It shows a rotating programme of cult, arthouse, and classic films alongside recent Hollywood releases – typically more than ten different films a week on two screens (285 seats downstairs and 104 seats upstairs). It also hosts the sing-a-long version of The Sound of Music, which has been shown on a regular basis for over five years, as well as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Joseph. The cinema has achieved a cult status amongst fans, sticking out as the only independent cinema in the West End.
Constructed between 1961 and 1962, the building was built by Richard Costain Limited for Alfred Esdaile and designed by Carl Fisher and Associates. The building originally functioned as a theatre with a distinctive 'satellite dish' curve to the floor of the stalls. The venue later operated as a porn cinema whose screenings included the UK's longest run of Emmanuelle, as well as Caligula.
The cinema was used as the setting for a number of stunts in the British sketch show, Trigger Happy TV. Filming was facilitated by the cinema having a balcony from which aerial shots could be taken, and the apparent willingness of the management to subject their patrons to some hilarious (and ultimately harmless) pranks. Various sketches involved the show's presenter, Dom Joly, along with extras from the show, annoying cinema-goers by dressing up as severely obese people trying to squeeze past whilst spilling popcorn from massively oversized buckets, sitting in front of them with enormous fake wigs, and dressing up as Beefeaters taking up whole rows of seats. Other more bizarre incidents involved the use of animal costumes. In one scene two rabbits were seen simulating sexual intercourse, and in another Joly dressed up as a snake and slithered around on the floor, as a supposed addition to a screening advising people to be vigilant about pick-pockets.
During the UK launch of Kill Bill: Volume 2, Uma Thurman recorded a special video introduction for a double bill of both movies being held at the cinema. In it she welcomed the audience to "Quentin's favourite UK cinema." Tarantino has said, "The Prince Charles Cinema is everything an independent movie theatre should be. For lovers of quality films, this is Mecca." and "The day Kill Bill plays the Prince Charles is the day Kill Bill truly comes home." He further described it as London's "queen's jewel" of a grindhouse saying "I was so honoured when Reservoir Dogs hit so big there that they started playing it at midnight and all the lads would show up in the black suits with little squirt guns".
In April 2007, the cinema opened an official Kevin Smith toilet cubicle, after the director held a Q&A session at the cinema. He is quoted as saying "I don't know, Quentin Tarantino has never turned up here and they name the bar after him, it's my second visit and they haven't even named a toilet after me!" The next day they screwed a framed picture of him to the first cubicle in the gents and he officially opened the toilet. The Kevin Smith cubicle is now in the ladies toilets as the cinema swapped the ladies and gents in late 2013.
As a commitment to promoting environmental causes, the PCC screened the documentary An Inconvenient Truth every week of 2007. Often the screenings have Q&As with special guests; previous speakers have included Tony Juniper, David Miliband and Sir Menzies Campbell.
The PCC is rumoured to have a ghost that haunts the upper levels of the cinema. Several sightings are claimed to have been made by staff, and it has even reportedly tidied up mess and adjusted the volume on films. The upper level of the cinema falls within the former site of the 17th-century Leicester House, which was later converted into the Holophusikon – a museum of curiosities, including many artefacts from Captain James Cook's voyages.
The canopy above the cinema is a source of public intrigue and amusement. Aside from regular advertising for films it often sports cult film quotes or other obscure messages. Previous messages have cheered on England in the World Cup, proclaimed the cinema to be the ninth wonder of the world, after King Kong, and even joked about other cinemas in the area.
- Matthew Lloyd. "Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Place, London". arthurlloyd.co.uk. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
- on YouTube
- Duncan Campbell (3 October 2003). "Saint Quentin". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 6 September 2013.
- James Rawson (15 January 2013). "Cine-files: The Prince Charles Cinema, London". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 6 September 2013.
- "The Big Ask Cinema Night: 'An Inconvenient Truth' and question time with Environment Minister" (Press release). London: Friends of the Earth. 23 February 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2013.