Secret Cinema turns 10 this year. To celebrate, they’re putting on their biggest production yet with a spectacular reimagining of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. It’s going to be mind-blowing. That’s what founder and creative director Fabien Rigall told us, anyway. We rang him up to look back on some of Secret Cinema’s greatest moments. Prepare yourself for epic FOMO.
"I was very passionate about this because at the time there were big problems with gangs and criminality. It was in London Fields, which at that point was surrounded by gangs from different parts of Tottenham. We worked with an anti-gang charity and it was really wonderful – everyone coming together for this truce. The actual event was really musical with lots of DJs playing."
"This was our first Ridley Scott film. We took over a series of abandoned car showrooms in Shoreditch and transformed them into a spaceship. When the audience arrived they were given their uniforms for the journey – a white overall. It was quite smoky and a bit spooky! The aliens were all done through movement and suggestion. We hid them in the shadows and you could only glimpse them out of the corner of your eye. It was more about the fear of what wasn’t there and the suspense."
"This one put us on the map. We took over an old hospital in West London and transformed it into Oregon State Hospital. The audience became patients amongst characters from the film. But we also had characters that we created specifically for the extended world. There weren’t any look-alikes. Secret Cinema is very much the opposite of that. We take the essence of the character and then we cast someone who is going to feel like them. For Cuckoo’s Nest, we had a cast of actors who really understood how to break the fourth wall and how to become the characters in the space. We want people to go away thinking: “Oh my God, I was actually admitted into a hospital, it felt real!”
"Lawrence of Arabia was a mixture of outside and inside. We took over the whole of Alexandra Palace (including the park) – so it was the biggest scale yet. It’s an epic film to recreate, so we really had to think how to turn this corner of London into Damascus. It was ambitious and the team doubled from 7,000 to 15,000. We showed the film on 70mm and had camels, horses and donkeys walking through the set. I’m really proud of it."
"This was in London and Brighton. I think the fun part was transforming London’s Troxy venue into the Sedgewick Hotel, where they catch their first ghost. We made the audience the guests at the gala that was raising money for the mayor but are told quite firmly in front of the hotel manager that there is a ghost problem. Then at a certain point when everyone’s in the spirit of it, we shut down the venue and the ghostbusters come in. It was difficult but it worked with a very simple narrative that people believed in. We even got these studio projection designers in to create the ghosts."
“Back To The Future was an incredibly ambitious project. We wanted to build the town of Hill Valley and allow the people to live inside it. There was a bit of a blip on the first weekend and we couldn’t open. It was for a mixture of reasons and became one of those mistakes that we learned from. For the second weekend, 75% of the people that couldn’t come originally came back and we had 80,000 people attend. It was one of my favourite secret cinemas because Back To The Future is a film about a kid becoming what he wants to be. It's inspiring in so many ways."
"We took an 18-acre newspaper factory and turned it into the Star Wars galaxy. The audience became rebels that joined Princess Leia to defeat the Dark Side. Each of the different spaces was constructed in the image of the amazing design from the film. The audience lived the world of A New Hope and then moved into Empire Strikes Back for the film. We did all the lightsaber battles with trained fighters and synced the action with the movie. Then Darth Vader would come through the audience and out of the screen. People were quite taken back."
"This was a very complicated one. We took over an old newspaper factory, which we completely transformed into an apocalyptic London. The idea was that because of Jeremy Hunt's NHS cuts, a zombie apocalypse had taken over the country. The factory was the last place to get your vaccine. So the audience became citizens on the run and we had zombies chase them down the streets. Then we had them all lie down on beds with the film on screens above. The end of the night was a blood rave with different DJs playing."
"This was during a period of time when people were quite down. Trump had just got in and Brexit happened too. We wanted to do something that was positive and hopeful – a pantomime technicolor world. From the art studios to the cafes, brothels and dressing rooms – we essentially created the streets of Montmartre. We built the entire Moulin Rouge, brick by brick. Then we managed to get a thousand-people singing the love medley to each other during the film. It was really heartening and so much fun."