“ 47-49 Station Street, Birmingham. „
The Electric Cinema
47 - 49 Station Street
Tel: 0121 6437879
The Electric Cinema is the UK's oldest working cinema having opened in 1909, it's now over 100 years old. Offering a completely different experience from your average blockbuster Odeon, it's very quaint, interesting and personal.
It only has two screens with less than 80 seats in each so I would recommend advance booking to avoid disappointment. The majority of the seats are just like regular flip-up cinema seats, however these are a bit small. So if you should find yourself sitting between two men who like to stick out their knees and elbows, like I did, you might find yourself a little uncomfortable.
However, there is the option of booking a sofa! Tickets to sit in the sofa are twice as much as the regular seats at £13.50 per person but it's great for a special treat. The sofas are made of worn in leather and are really squishy and comfortable; just like being at home. Be careful not to nod off, though, as they're a little TOO comfortable!
The other benefit of having a sofa is that you can get a waiter service on your drinks and snacks. When you arrive, you are given a phone number and a menu. All you do then is text your order to the phone number whenever you like and they will bring it right to your seat, charging pre-determined debit or credit card which you give them details for when you arrive, if you wish to use this service.
The range of snacks isn't in the realm of your regular hot dogs and nachos, but rather you get choose slices of cake, bowls of nuts and even slices of ham! Drinks include wine and bottles of lager.
The cinema shows a range of films from current blockbusters, indie films and even classics; I went to see Metropolis here, the original 1920s film with extra added footage. So if you keep checking the schedule, you're bound to find something you like. Unfortunately, I was sitting in a small seat for Metropolis so I had to get up to stand at the back and have a stretch as the film is very long. I would definitely recommend a sofa for a longer film.
Ladies toilets are downstairs in the basement, so if you're viewing the screen on the first floor, you have to go down two floors to get there which is quite a trek. The toilets are quite basic and a bit creepy, but otherwise clean and fully functioning.
This isn't the kind of cinema you would want to go to for your regular cinema trip, but I would definitely recommend for a special treat.
Within Birmingham City Centre there are no less than three (maybe more!) huge great multi screen cinemas, boasting the best of surround sound and such massive high quality images that youre practically experiencing the movie of your choice in 3D. A lovely range of food and snacks is available, usually along with a gift store selling such overpriced items as Mickey Mouse socks or a poster of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.
So when I won a family ticket to see a kids film preview at a cinema Id never heard of, located in one of towns shabbiest streets, I was not impressed. However, while looking for directions to the wretched place I discovered that although its not a flash cinema its actually a little piece of Birminghams history. Opening in 1909, The Electric Cinema is the oldest working cinema in the city and is also the ONLY independent cinema in the region which hasnt been taken over by one of the big boys.
I immediately saw this tatty little tucked away cinema as something much more interesting than visiting a uniform big screen venue. And boy, does it look tatty. Now I know how old and unchanged the building is I can appreciate how solid and true to its history the outside of the building is; I could imagine the place not having changed too much since it opened nearly 100 years ago. Its a lovely looking place when viewed with this attitude and the only thing wrong with the cinema is its location. Id imagine back when it opened town wasnt such a built up area and The Electric Cinema would have been something of a centre piece for the citys population, but now this cute little building looks out onto a hideous multi storey car park and a half demolished (and apparently forgotten about) shopping centre. Its a shame cos this place could really thrive if it was picked up and moved to a nicer spot!
I was surprised as I walked through the old fashioned glass and brass front door at how small the foyer is. On one side is a small art deco bar and the entrance to Screen 1 is directly in front of you, with a tiny ticket office squeezed alongside the bar. Its so quaint; I fell in love with the cinema there and then. The foyer is decorated in pleasant neutral colours with various old fashioned movie style photographs and advertisements. Upstairs is Screen 2, yep this cinema only has two screens. Welcome to the good old days.
Anyway, you can only watch one screen at a time and I was more than happy with our seating in Screen 1. What really makes The Electric Cinema stand out from the crowd is its fabulous seating arrangement. Standard, although old fashioned styled, cinema seats make up most of the room but the back four or five rows have been removed to create a kind of living room environment. Plush two seater leather sofas and small tables are arranged along with vases of flowers and other nice touches; we were lucky and our prize tickets were for the sofa seats and, get this, we got to use text waiter service!
Text waiter service is amazing; Ive never seen anything like it. When you first go to the bar youll be told all the ins and outs and given a mobile phone number to text when you want your next drink. Simply text your drinks and snacks order along with your seat name (the sofas are all named after big Hollywood stars) to this number and itll be delivered to your table within minutes. Talk about class warfare, the waiter service is only available to those in sofa seats and my 10 year old commented about the plebs in the standard seats who had to go to the bar themselves! Mind you, after texting twice I started to feel like I was taking the pee and ended up trekking to the bar myself! You pay for your drinks at the end of the film with no extra cost for the running about the poor barman had to do, can you imagine asking the Odeon to open a tab for you AND bringing you top ups all the way through the film?
The sofas are really comfortable, those kind of seats where you can feel yourself sinking further and further down into the cushions as you relax. I also tried out one of the standard seats and theyre also lovely to sit in with thick springy cushions and wide backs.
Snacks in The Electric Cinema are short and sweet; you wont be filling your belly in here, although they do provide a tempting array of sweet treats for you to munch while watching the film. They serve a delicious home made ice-cream from JustRachel Icecreams; I had a wonderful butterscotch and orange ice-cream and it tasted fabulous, only £2 for a decent sized dish which is something of a bargain compared to most other cinemas. They also stock a range of cakes, which appear to change regularly and are marked on a chalk board, posh chocolates and a selection of savoury nibbles (served in a real bowl!) such as tortilla chips, nuts and mixed fruit. A charming little menu. What struck me is the fact that everything available is so reasonably priced, perhaps Im used to paying a small fortune for mass produced snacks in the larger cinemas but I was surprised at how deliciously fresh the food tasted and how cheap it was.
Because of the fact that The Electric Cinema has only 2 screens, theyre obviously limited to how many films they can show at any one time. They do show everything which is being shown at the larger cinemas, only they have to have a strict programming schedule. If youre planning on a visit Id definitely recommend phoning beforehand to check whats showing and work your trip around the time of the film you want to watch.
Tickets to watch a film in The Electric cinema are priced depending on the seating you want. Standard seating costs £6 per ticket, while to book a sofa will set you back £12 per person and you cant sit just one on a sofa, there must be two of you which means the total cost is £24 per sofa. A pretty expensive way to enjoy the latest blockbuster, but once youve sampled a film in the luxury of a leather sofa youll never want to go back to flip-up cinema seats again! Id recommend booking a sofa by simply calling the cinema before your visit as Id imagine they fill up pretty quickly, especially at the weekend performances.
Wheelchair access is fine, although again Id recommend booking before just turning up as youll be given an appropriate seat if you tell them about any mobility problems you may have. Doorways are wide and steps are kept to an absolute minimum, because of the small size of the building you may get into some difficulty if you have a bulky wheelchair but providing you have someone with you (or dont mind asking a member of staff) youll be fine.
So go and take a look at Brums oldest cinema, youll never want to be a sheep in the Odeon again!
The Electric Cinema
47 49 Station Street
Tel: 0121 6437879