Secret Cinema Preview: Tips For Making The Most of Empire Strikes Back

Tom Butler - do not use
Senior UK Writer

After last year’s barnstorming ‘Back To The Future’ event proved so popular (the film cracked to the UK box office top 10) Secret Cinema is back and they’re bringing that Galaxy Far, Far Away much, much closer to a classified London location for a summer-long residency with ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

First, a quick primer on Secret Cinema for the uninitiated: The events company began life in 2007 offering boutique movie-watching experiences and everything about the event remained secret, including the film and location. As it’s grown over the years, the secret element has diminished and fans know exactly which film they’re paying to see. Also gone is the boutique scale. These are massive events and last year’s huge ‘Back To The Future’ event that saw Hill Valley Town Square faithfully recreated in London’s East End seems to have set the tone for the company’s future.

The film in question this time around - ‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’ – is one of the best-loved movies of the 20th century, so how do you convince punters who’ve probably seen the film hundreds of times to pay £75 per ticket to watch a movie they probably own on VHS (original AND Special Edition), DVD, Blu-ray, and maybe digital?

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And, more importantly, is it worth it?

Scale-wise, this is definitely Secret Cinema’s biggest event so far. A team of more than 400 people has come together to recreate a slice of ‘Star Wars’ in an 18-acre venue. That’s double the size of the ‘Back To The Future’ stage and the experience begins as soon as you arrive at the venue.

After navigating your way through the spaceport dock, you find yourself transported to a desert style zone where you relax with food and drinks, participate in some immersive theatrics, and generally get in the mood for the film. Seeing Stormtroopers and other ‘Star Wars’ characters roaming around is never not thrilling.

The final area, which we won’t spoil for you, sees everyone herded through a huge industrial location where you’re treated to some spectacular live action theatrics, before you finally take your seats for the movie.

The potency of the film hasn’t diminished since its release in 1980. Like this summer’s ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, ‘TESB’ is essentially a chase movie at heart with Vader doggedly hunting down the Rebels as they flee from the clutches of the Empire and it rattles along at astonishing pace. However, if you’ve paid £75 plus booking fee for a ticket, you already know this.

The Force is still strong with the film and it remains the best ‘Star Wars’ installment so far, which is helpful as this is Secret Cinema’s best event so far too. It’ll definitely whet your ‘Star Wars’ appetite before the release of ‘The Force Awakens’ this December.

Here are our top tips for making the most of your Secret Cinema experience.

Get involved

Sign up for your character online, print out your details, and go big on your costume, you’ll not feel out of place. At the very least bring a scarf to cover your face, after all you’re a secret rebel now.

Participate

How much you get out of Secret Cinema depends on how much you’re willing to put in. Speak to the actors, they’ll offer you tips, give you missions, tell you snippets of stories. It all adds up to something much more than just a standard cinema-going experience.

Explore

Look in every room and building and keep an eye out for characters, there’s loads of hidden details you might miss. Keep an eye out for the actors - this is much a theatrical event as it is a cinematic one - there’s always a scene about to happen.

Prepare

Read your character details before you go. They’ll recommend you bring certain items with you that will help unlock certain things at the event, and you’ll be asked your name throughout the night.

No picnics

Don’t bring food and drink. You can’t bring it in with you, and there’s plenty there on offer to eat and drink including the gloriously named “Lando’s Chicken”.

Get tipsy

Try the cocktail; it’s delicious, but very strong. It’ll help the more socially awkward get into character.

No cash needed

Don’t worry about hitting the ATM before you arrive; it’s all contactless payment. However, if you get involved in a card game with a certain intergalactic rogue, don’t blame us if you get fleeced.

Best spots

Keep moving around in the desert arena. There’s a lot of exploring to do. When you get to the industrial area, stay upstairs for the best view of the action.

Don’t bring a cushion 

Unlike previous events, there are plenty of seats provided and everyone gets a good view of the screen.

Stay aware

Keep your eyes peeled while the movie’s on, there’s a lot going on around you that you might miss. 

Take a pee

Go to the loo before you leave the desert arena, it’s a long trek back!

SECRET CINEMA Presents STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is on now until 27th September 2015 www.secretcinema.org/tickets

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Image credits: Paul Cochrane/Olivia Weetch/Marianne Chua