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Barbican Cinemas: Turning the City of London into a cultural destination

10 December 2012 | London Calling

The screens are accompanied by a stylishly laid out café and bar that has the feel of somewhere you’d arrange your social gatherings

New cultural London venues are fantastic, it’s always a sign that this incredible city won’t rest on its laurels, that whilst we’re fortunate enough to live in one of the world’s most culturally rich cities, the offerings will continue to be plentiful. This isn’t a slight on the city’s tradition however, far from it. The history, heritage and stories behind London’s established venues are ones that entrance, beguile and fascinate at the same time. So when the old and the new combine, the pulse quickens!

Last week was one such occasion where the old and new combined perfectly. The Barbican opened its doors and arms to the public to celebrate the addition of its first new venues since it was opened in 1982. The new Barbican Cinemas 2&3 (opened by Vivienne Westwood) sit proudly on Beech Street and further extend the cultural reach of the venue in an area now rich in artistic offerings.

The area’s reputation is of imperative importance to Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican, and something always heeded when looking at new projects. “They are part of our move towards the creation of a vibrant cultural quarter in the area of the city…they will create an exceptional cultural destination and I hope all our local audiences and arts audiences become regular patrons of the new Barbican Cinemas.”

And what of the screens themselves? Seating just over 150 each they’re not big by any stretch, but they’re beautifully designed, the screen perfectly sized for the size of room and the seats comfy enough to doze off in!

As with the majority of independent cinemas these two new screens have the feel of a destination venue rather than a stop off to see the latest blockbuster. The screens are accompanied by a stylishly laid out café and bar that has the feel of somewhere you’d arrange your social gatherings and the opportunity to download original screenplays via QR codes on the walls is a nice touch. The fact there are two spacious and comfortable screens adjoining is an exciting bonus.

But then bonus might be the wrong word to use when looking at the upcoming list of films the Barbican have planned for the year ahead. To describe them as a ‘thrilling eclectic’ might be a more apt phrase to use.

Sensibly they’re opening with some big hitters to get the numbers in to begin with. Seven Psychopaths, Great Expectations, Les Mis, The Hobbit and Lincoln will all grace the screens in the coming months. Those latest releases will then dovetail with a whole host of alternative offerings…

Silent films will be accompanied by live Jazz musicians, and Met Opera Live productions will be screened alongside two major film festivals. The Wellcome Trust’s ‘Wonder: Art & Science on the Brain’ and the Barbican wide programme ‘Dancing Around Duchamp’ promise to be two of the must see cinematic events of 2013.

Following the announcement that Cineworld last week purchased Picturehouse for £47 million and build a further ten cinemas by 2014 it would seem that the British film industry is in rude health. With the addition of the two new screens at the Barbican, the City of London is well on its way to becoming a cultural destination for all comers and the venue itself going from strength to strength.

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