Sshh! It’s a Secret!

One of my favorite creative enterprises out there in the world is a company in the UK called Secret Cinema.

Every couple of months they have a very special movie screening—except you don’t know what the movie is! (Well, these days it’s not much of a secret, but that’s still the concept.) Instead, what you are given is the dress code and (at the last minute) the location.

And instead of just going to watch a movie, what you get is an immersive experience. You dress in ‘80s style and wander through a building watching scenes from Ghostbusters being reenacted before making your way into the large screening room. You make your way into a speakeasy for Bugsy Malone, where the climactic cream pie fight is interrupted so that the entire audience can have its own cream pie fight.

Secret Cinema is on my mind today because of this new addition to their offerings: costume pop-up shop for those who want to come in their best Back to the Future attire.

What a brilliant idea! Both as a business and as a creative endeavor.

What makes Secret Cinema so extraordinary is that it is offering what film itself never really does—an authentic experience. I love movies, but you would never mistake watching one for actually doing the things depicted. But we live in a world so full of media that it is easy to fill our time and forget that we are missing out on something authentic.

Here, we are offered some entertainment that is also something we can participate in.  Something we can experience. And because these are films with which we all have an existing familiarity, it becomes a shared, collective moment, like theater or church.

If film can adopt the practices of theater in order to give us a revolutionary new experience, what techniques does theater need to play with in order to remind us that it is more than watching a movie on stage?

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