It’s the hottest day of the year so far and I am at a Christmas party. You have to feel a little sorry for the bods at The Tyneside Cinema, which picked yesterday to launch its festive programme – I’m roasting and there is a man in a full on Santa suit having to keep up the Christmas cheer. Still, the decidedly odd sensation of being seasonally unaligned aside, there was lots to appreciate at the launch – and lots to look forward to in winter.
When I arrived just after 5 the event was still getting underway, and looking a little sparse – perhaps many of the people invited were deterred by the weather, which made doing anything but sitting on the sofa in your pants seem like a stretch. This didn’t seem to deter the friendly, glitter-faced staff (or the Santa, who maintained an impressive amount of good cheer for a man in red velour in a heatwave, though he also spent a lot of time standing under the aircon unit).
The cinema had cleared out the Coffee Rooms and Digital Lounge to make space for some stalls and a cocktail bar (where I felt obliged – obliged, I tell you – to have a Baileys espresso martini). Prosecco, soft drinks, canapes and popcorn were all on offer, and you could also get a chocolate milk from the Polar Express stand, or a green cookie from the Grinch.
The tentpole offerings of the season are around not just the films – screenings of all the usual festive suspects, from Die Hard to It’s A Wonderful Life – but the packages that come with them. The cinema is doing a number of family events, at a range of price points depending on the extras on offer – such as a screening of The Polar Express that includes hot chocolate and gingerbread, as well as a post-film visit from Santa. (A relaxed screening is also on offer.) A Grinch package can include shakes and cookies as optional extras.
Similarly there’s a whole range of It’s A Wonderful Life events – from Afternoon Tea to a festive sing-song and night out (with a bringing in baby event also on offer). A screening of The Holiday comes with prosecco, popcorn and chocolate (plus tissues, if you fancy a weep). I’m mildly disappointed you don’t get any extras with the Die Hard screening (A vest? Socks? A Christmas sweater? Duct tape?) but I guess you can’t have everything.
The cinema also, of course, has a wide range of non-festive options – you can rent out a screen for a party (something, I admit, I have always wanted to do – the hen party scene in Bridesmaid Blues is loosely based on doing this, at a fictionalised version of the cinema); you can book an afternoon tea or speakeasy night, and the cinema regularly hosts dementia friendly and bringing in baby screenings for both new releases and classics.
It’s no secret that I love the Tyneside Cinema (and the gorgeous coffee rooms) – that I spent much of my youth there, and am always happy to have a chance to go back – but getting a chance yesterday to speak to so many people who work there, and see how committed they are to serving the city was really inspiring. So why not check it out and go give them some of your money?
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