An evening at the Electric

In Explore, Look, Watch

I’m drowning in a plush red velvet armchair, feet up and lights dimly flickering around the cavernous room. Notting Hill’s Electric Cinema is more akin to a ballroom than picture house, dotted with large sofas, armchairs and even a few beds. The box office booth has a fairground quality to it, and as we hand over our tickets and wander inside, we pass a wooden cart mounted with row upon row of candied sweets in jars.

An historic part of Portobello Road since its opening in 1911, the Electric has an eccentric history. It stood proudly through two world wars and a bombing, even staying open throughout the Blitz, flashing announcements on screen when the air raid sirens began to blare.

I’m waiting in anticipation for the start of Inside Llewyn Davis, contemplating the in-cinema bar behind me brimming with fancy wines and foreign beers. I can see (and smell) freshly baked goods, pastries, quesadillas, hummus and flatbread, and veggies sticks with dip.

During World War I, the Electric was attacked by an angry mob who believed its German-born manager was signaling to Zeppelin raiders from the roof. The incident led to the cinema doors being stoned and the manager interned in a camp.

In its post-War years, the Electric Cinema successfully avoided becoming a bingo hall, which would have been a tragic fate. Perhaps its darkest history lies in the rumour that in the late 40s, notorious mass murderer John Christie worked at the Electric as a projectionist.

Staring up at the high ceilings, beautiful proscenium arch that frames the screen and scarlet furnishings, I reach for my blanket, kick off my converse, and make a mental note that this is the way to do film.

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