25th June 2015
The format used to be simple. A mysterious email would be your invite to an event shrouded in secrecy. Details would be drip-fed and a carefully chosen location would be craftily designed to match a film that was only revealed on the night itself. The decision to divulge the latest chosen film, and to make sure it’s one that appeals to the widest audience possible, has shifted the focus of Secret Cinema.
Secret Cinema has developed its package in order to maintain a high level of demand and build a loyal customer base. Competitors are now offering screenings elsewhere on luxurious leather sofas, in hot tubs or on rooftops to help satisfy the urge for something other than a trip to the Odeon – and with the rise in popularity of Netflix, Secret Cinema may have had to grow up (some may say sell out) but it appears to be for the best.
Although some of the initial secrecy has been sacrificed, the event still delivers. The level of effort required of attendees pre-event for the recent Star Wars screenings has increased compared to that of previous years, but the end product has become more incredible as a result. Issuing guests with character names, dress codes and a list of items to bring along has encouraged guests to become engrossed in the storyline and even allowed some to live out scenes imagined as a child. For example, I never expected to have my best friend free me from a Tatooine jail, before trading goods with the Jawas and watching Chewbacca manhandle a bad guy.
Organisers have also done well to prevent guests using their phones freely and spoiling the secret for those yet to attend. It was strangely refreshing to not see everyone checking social media updates on their phones or taking a selfie. The nature of this year’s Secret Cinema means no two guests will have the exact same experience. To me, this is something you cannot put a price on, but to others it can be an issue, especially when they have been terribly ‘British’ and stood at the back for most of the night.
I completely understand those who question spending the best part of £100 on your costume and ticket, but when you can spend that easily on a night out these days, it doesn’t seem such an extortionate price. Immersive experiences shouldn’t just let you have a taster, but let you have a full blown three course meal. If you want a cheaper version of this live theatre, it would not allow you to dive head first into the deep end of childhood nostalgia. The ticket price covers the high overhead costs that Secret Cinema must withstand (a set taking up 18 acres in London during the summer isn’t cheap).
Fabien Riggall, who runs Secret Cinema, said “People are looking for a new way to experience culture. What secret cinema has untapped is that desire, which is increasing with every technology that comes out. I think that audiences are looking to connect and become part of that experience”.
A good experience leaves guests with a sense of fulfilment that cannot be easily replicated. A great experience leaves guests with a feeling of satisfaction, as a result of being subjected to something so unique that cannot be matched. A successful immersive experience builds a connection with the customer and is becoming something that we are all starting to look for in wider aspects of everyday life.