5 Things I learned about cinemas while volunteering for The Cube

I’m currently waiting not-so-patiently for my wife to go into labour. Sitting around wondering when your sofa will be ruined by breaking waters provides ample time for reflection and, seeing as it’s also the end of 2015, I wanted to share the most significant new(ish) relationship that I’ve formed this year.

While I started volunteering last year, 2015 has been the year that I truly, madly fell in love with the Cube. We’re a small, independent microplex just off Dove Street in Bristol. We have one screen, a bar, a garden with a hole where the water feature used to be, and a terrifying array of projectors all mashed together in one narrow, sweaty room. And we’re pretty damn cool. So cool that, whenever I tell friends about it and they don’t know who we are, I get sad that they’re missing out.

Through the Cube, I’ve made some of the best friends I could ever hope for, been a part of some fantastic and ridiculous projects, and discovered the satisfaction that comes from contributing to something for the sheer love of it (the cheap drinks also help). I’ve also come to realise that a lot of people assume we’re simply another little cinema so I wanted to share some of the most significant things that I’ve learned in the last twelve months to hopefully introduce you to our mad little world.

1) Showing films is hard

I programmed a total of one film this year and was amazed at how tough it can be to wrangle everything into place. I have no idea how I would have managed it without the help from people acquiring the appropriate rights, designing the poster, projecting the movie, and a hundred other vital jobs and kindnesses.

Also, when you can only show one thing at a time, you have to make it count. I’ve lost track of the number of amazing things I’ve seen on the Cube’s slightly smudged screen and it’s down to the people who are constantly searching out the best films from all manner of sources.

2) More cinemas need bars

And those bars need to be fun. I tend to gravitate towards managing the bar when I volunteer and there’s no greater pleasure than mixing stupid cocktails, baking Chocolate Salty Balls, and recommending beers, teas, and whiskies for people to go with their film. It’s also nice to know that you can buy booze for less than most theatres charge for a small coke and stale popcorn.

3) Silver nitrate film is really flammable

Really, really flammable. Holy shit I am scared of that stuff.

4) A cinema doesn’t just show films

This year, I’ve helped out at more arts events than I think I’d been to in my life up until now and they’ve all been insane and incredible. I’ve experienced immigration through virtual reality, seen musicians run out of the building mid-set to find the Moon, toilets get turned into raves, live podcasts (including some of the fastest shaving ever), a seemingly endless parade of fantastic comedians, Mothers Against Canada protests, talks on the politics of doping in professional cycling, and heated battles of ridiculous video games on the silver screen. And honestly, that’s just a fraction of it. When you’ve got all this going on, it’s hard to get excited about the 23rd release in a comic book franchise.

5) A cinema isn’t a building

The best thing about the Cube is that it isn’t constrained by its cosy walls. Everyone who volunteers carries a part of it with them and, likewise, is a part of it themselves. The Cube is its expedition to Nepal to bring happiness to children forced out of their homes by disasters, it’s the friends who got married after meeting at their first volunteering session, it’s the people who can fix anything at a moment’s notice just to make sure a show happens, and it’s the giant, ever-shifting organism that’s constantly churning out art and music and technology and films all for the sake of sharing what they love with the world.

So to anyone who hasn’t come down to check it out yet, what’s the hold up? And to all my lovely friends at the Cube, thanks for an amazing year ❤

Images used with thanks to Gruffudd Jones, the Standup Picture Show, the Kids Kino Project and the Cube Microplex.