Nestled in the award-winning Lincolnshire village of Woodhall Spa sits Kinema in the Woods, a cinema with a fascinating history trying to keep up with the big boys like VUE and Odeon.
But this is Unique Cinemas territory so you know you’re not just going to get that run-of-the-mill experience we all know and love. Kinema is up there as one of the best experiences you’ll ever have watching a film. What can you expect? Adam Brannon went along to a screening of Dunkirk to find out.
Being situated down a quiet country lane is probably not all that surprising given that Lincolnshire is one of the UK’s most rural counties, but as darkness approached, this was a beautifully atmospheric start to my trip.
The tiny building dates back to the 1800s but only became a cinema in 1922 after it was converted from a cricket pavilion by Captain, and then Major, C.C. Allport. The Pavilion Cinema (as it was then known) was only the 68th cinema to be opened in Britain, paving the way for many others to follow suit.
Upon arriving, you’re greeted by a wonderfully quaint box office where staff hand out tickets one by one – there’s no soulless automated system here. The foyer is, you guessed it, tiny but oh so inviting.
Film memorabilia lines the walls and for me, it felt like a palace of treasures. Old programmes, film cells and props are tastefully arranged in glass cabinets for all to see – some only Disney programmes in particular really took my fancy.
The most surprising part for me however was how good value the food and drink is. At just over £6 for two drinks and a large bucket of fresh popcorn (not the stale rubbish you find in most chain cinemas these days) it was incredible value for money. You’d be paying at least double that elsewhere.
After being seated in screen 1 (there are only 2) we sat back and actually enjoyed the advertisements that were broadcast. There was a real atmosphere throughout, maybe helped by the chandeliers that hung from the ceiling.
Dunkirk was the perfect film to watch at a venue such as this. Sitting there, you can really imagine people in 1940 awaiting news of the incredible rescue effort and this made Christopher Nolan’s epic feel even more real. Yes, the screen wasn’t the biggest and it certainly wasn’t IMAX, but that didn’t matter in the slightest – the emotional resonance the film had was played out at a much higher level.
Half way through the screen went black. Broken? Of course not. An organ rose from under the stage and we were able to enjoy a decent intermission with classic music. My companion and I stared at each other in disbelief – it was astonishing to watch and really beautiful to listen to and a perfect fit for the film we were watching.
Ten minutes or so later and the film began again. Dunkirk isn’t long in the slightest but having the option to take a toilet break or go to the foyer and grab some more sweets is lovely. There’s nothing worse than nature calling just as a film is about to get good and my bladder isn’t what it used to be.
As the film concluded, it was clear to see just how popular Kinema in the Woods is and it’s easy to see why. Not only is it excellent value, it’s a piece of British history that can still be enjoyed today. Normally, I’d say going to the cinema is the worst idea for a first date you could have, but there’s something oddly romantic about its cosiness.
As I drove away, we had the pleasure of watching a stunning firework display from the nearby hotel. Nothing to do with the cinema of course, but a fine ending to an absolutely stunning Unique Cinema experience in a truly beautiful English location. Check out my visit to the Moonlight Drive-In Cinema when it came to the UK City of Culture, Hull last year.
Click here to read my interview with Kinema manager, Philip Jones.
Click here for showtimes and booking queries.