Tuesday 09th, July 2013 / 20:10

Secret Cinema Poster - credit Greg DobleUNDERGROUND SILVER SCREENS

There’s a little cosy courtyard in town where one can view old celluloid films for free. It’s nothing like the big obnoxious Cineplex experience that we all love to hate. In fact, if you’re a film lover looking for an intimate experience, you might fall in love with The Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers’ Secret Cinema. Originally called Sofa Cinema when CSIF was located in the Currie Barracks, CSIF hosts monthly summer Secret Cinema events. In 1997, they acquired an extensive library of over 2,500 celluloid films from the Calgary Public Library and in the coming summer months, there will be monthly screenings with film titles undisclosed to keep the mystery and excitement going (and for copyright reasons, too).

In an email, Jesse Cumming – CSIF’s communications and programming assistant – says, “Secret Cinema is important because it makes classic films available to people that may not have seen or heard of before. We have a lot of lesser-known titles that are worth seeing like old [National Film Board] documentaries, animations and independent Canadian films.”

All films are on 16mm, says Cumming, which is “an opportunity to enjoy a medium that is rarely used today.”

“There’s nothing like real film grain, scratches, faded colours and the sound of the projector buzzing behind you,” he adds.

Secret Cinema nights are accompanied by drinks provided by the Village Brewery, free popcorn and a New York feel to the courtyard to boot. There’s often live music that precede the screenings, Q&A’s with the curators, and themes.

Although Cumming affirms that CSIF’s Secret Cinema has nothing in common with the big monthly gathering of the same name in London and throughout the U.K., the similar concept was still interesting to look into.

“We try to keep it small and community-based, while they are a big budget operation,” says Cumming.

London’s Secret Cinema launched in December 2007 with the screening of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park at the Southwark Playhouse under the London Bridge. Four hundred people attended. Every month since then, they stage cinema events around London and the U.K. They sell tickets to an audience who have absolutely no idea what film they will be viewing. The events incorporate theatre, live music and food with the aim of mimicking the movie’s own setting.

The concept of bringing people together for a unique “en plein-air” cinema experience brings “drive-in theatre” days to mind. Back then, the intimacy of your own vehicle was what made the screenings unique.

Cumming says it would be a big challenge to bring drive-ins back to the city but believes the key to saving the cinema experience is “to offer something novel to audiences [such as] lives bands with films, theme nights, costumes, Q&As.”

Bring your blankets and friends and enjoy films on July 16, August 20 and September 5. For more info, visit

By Claire Miglionico
Poster: Greg Doble