It’s easy to underestimate the scope for fun at Imperial – other universities probably had fully operational bars during Fresher’s Week and students camping out for days or even weeks in the library are not uncommon. With this in mind, when you hear about Imperial College’s Cinema, you may very well envision some shabby little screen and one lonely film geek hunched over a DVD player, but you would be wrong. Just above the newly opened FiveSixEight, the Union Concert Hall hides a 33ft screen and, with a professional 35mm projector and full Dolby Surround Sound, the iCU Cinema rivals any average Odeon or Cineworld in London.
If you didn’t know this, though, you’d be easily forgiven. It’s been a rough few years for the CinemaSoc which, in its heyday, used to draw in a decent crowd and actually make money – a thing that hasn’t happened in about six years. According to Tom Rushton, current Chief Projectionist and former Chair, it’s been a “downward spiral” since around 2004 and one that showed little hope of recovery on its own.
It’s been a rough few years for the CinemaSoc
The decline of iCU’s Cinema is a snowballing of bad luck and minor mistakes. In 2008, there was so little interest in the cinema that only four of the six posts on the committee were actually filled and, as Freshers’ Fair approached, the Chair for that year went AWOL, forgetting to inform the rest of the committee he’d failed his exams. With two of the remaining three members present, and with four days left before Fresher’s fair, Rushton was given the unenviable role of chairing this flagging society. By the Spring term, nothing was showing and the only thing they had gained was one more member of staff.
The next academic year seemed to follow this theme of staff drop-outs (they lost their chair, vice-chair and treasurer in the next Autumn term) and building work at the Union cut off the remaining staff members from most of the equipment in the projection booth. When iCU Cinema informed the Union it was officially going “dormant” it went pretty much unnoticed – with zero publicity and very little to publicise in the first place, few people at Imperial had really noticed it had existed at all.
£50,000 is, however, a lot of Union money to be spent on highly specialised equipment gathering dust over the concert hall and, over this summer, a new committee was put together. In what seems to be the trend, the new Chair – Charlotte Ivison – was forced to drop out after being elected DPW, but replacing her is 2nd year physicist Chandana Shankar, who is keen to see the cinema back on its feet and enjoying the success of its former years.
Expect iCU Cinema to show recently released popular films in a complete cinema environment at student-friendly prices Chandana Shankar, iCU Cinema Chair
Speaking to Felix about the future of iCU Cinema, Shankar said, “People can expect iCU Cinema to show recently released popular films in a complete cinema environment at student-friendly prices.” In order to avoid the failings of its past, the cinema is looking to show high-demand blockbusters and organise social events to foster a stronger loyalty in its members.
Perhaps you have to see it to believe it, but for anybody with even a vague interest in films, a visit to iCU Cinema is worth the £3, especially as cinema ticket prices often hit upwards of £10 in most London cinemas. Despite its shaky few years, iCU Cinema finally seems in a good position to make a comeback. Kicking off with Inception this Tuesday 26th at 6.30pm in the Union Concert Hall, the resurrected iCU Cinema promises more films like this to follow, with Toy Story 3, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and The Social Network all in the pipeline. So if you’re getting a drink at the new bar, it’d be worth bringing it upstairs to enjoy Christopher Nolan’s latest critically-acclaimed mindfuck, and supporting the return of iCU Cinema in all its glory.