“Good evening everyone and welcome to the Everyman. My name is Jason and I am the manager on duty for you this evening. Our air condition is always on so please feel free to grab a blanket which is down here for you in the corner. Everyone should have received their food and drink orders by now. If not, I will be in the corner over there in the next couple of minutes to sort out orders if they haven’t yet arrived. Now the only thing left to say is enjoy the film.”
After years of mundane multiplex cinema experiences as a teenager with big empty rooms, cheap and cheerful nacho cheese sauce and overpriced jumbo-sized cola cups which no one could ever finish, I am absolutely astonished by this cinema; The Everyman. The name derives more from an intellectual attitude than an actual invitation for EVERYMAN with its fairly small cinema rooms which hold 30 to 200 seats per screening room. Each screen has sumptuous, colourful velvet seats with matching cushions, some are even 2 or 3 seaters in which you can cuddle up with your companion or indeed companions.
There are 34 Everyman cinemas across the UK which belong to the Everyman Cinema Group. Founded in 2000 the company bought the first and original Everyman cinema in Hampstead, North London. The actual building dates back to 1933 and used to be a theatre of the non-movie variety. The high streets are going through tough times for various reasons, yet Everyman is reaping the benefits from this down turn by being able to take their pick of prime locations and historic buildings that fit its own image.
The location in Bristol is a neglected old art deco picture house from the 1920s-era that has been delightfully refurbished by Everyman. When you enter a cosy feeling of a theatrical jazz bar grabs your heart. Photos of old school actors and movie scenes adorn the foyer. Velvet benches and low wooden coffee tables beg for you to spend more time there than just seeing a film. Some call it an ultra-luxurious boutique picture house, and boy do I want to hold on to that phrase ‘picture house’ as it captures my nostalgic feeling for carefully curated aesthetics and a humble astonishment for the origin of movie experience. When looking at the overall state of cinema you can see multiplex cinemas try very hard to compete with streaming services. Whereas it seems like independent cinemas try to keep the arty cinema experience alive. The Everyman though brings the independent cinema approach to a next level.
Checking the drink and food menu I am excited to find Sauvignon Blanc, Moretti, Martini, olives, hummus, pizza, burgers and nachos with fresh guacamole. The waiter asks if you want to take your order with you or if everything shall be served to the seat. Later I find super friendly waiters managing their way through the dark cinema rows with heavily loaded trays laden with unusual cinema treats. It is not very easy to get alcohol licenses in the UK so I am even more impressed that the Everyman Cinema Group went through the hassle to bring wine into the screening room.
As a big fan of the olden yet golden days of multi-purpose venues, with restaurant and live music that transitions into a disco or ballroom during the evening, I am very much welcoming the wooden tables next to the seats where you can place your martini and popcorn rather than having a plain plastic holder to dump the ‘mega multiplex cola cup’.
The personal welcoming speech by the Duty Manager before the film starts, as described in the beginning, enriches the cinema experience on a personal level. This adds a theatrical air to the evening and connects more to the actual film. Unlike in a theatre where you experience the performance with the actors on stage, in a film the viewer is left alone with the ‘end product’. You watch an actor’s memory of a staged performance and you can repeat and rewind as it becomes a usable product. Having a host for the evening somehow connects you more with the human craft behind the film making. And with this thoughtfully created design of the Everyman cinema you really hope everyman, or woman could join this movie experience at least once in their life.
My friend Josh works at Everyman, charming the customers who come to the Everyman for a special treat á la nostalgia. He answered some questions for us:
How does the Everyman Cinema differ from other cinema experiences?
The Everyman experience is an adaptation of the American Drive-In cinema experience. I say this because it is experiential, it is crafted a combination of ideas which include comfortability, design, ease and customer service. The cinema itself has an art deco vibe, drapes hang in crimson and grey, plush sofas are befitted in velvet, marble steps and pillars exude a sense of grandiosity. It is like walking into a Lynchian dream sequence.
How do you think the customers experience it?
The state of cinema isn’t in great shape, and unfortunately, although a booming industry, it is slowly dying. People no longer idolise the cinema as they once did. What Everyman are doing for cinema is a great way to bring new customers in and harness a niche market, in a setting that echoes ease, delight and comfortability. The customer really is at the forefront of its ideology.
Has your view on cinema changed through this different concept?
When I first started here, I went to the cinema almost on a quarterly basis. As I work here, I wouldn’t say I get the same experience but instead a vastly superior one, and when it comes down to it, yeah, I think my opinion has changed in favour of more specialised cinemas.
What is the secret to success for Everyman?
In my mind it comes down to two simple ideas, to completely charm every single customer that walks through the doors – which can be done quite easily due to the whole Everyman system being very alluring to filmgoers. And also have a genuine interest in creating a great experience for them.
How does the Everyman’s visual design influence the take on cinema?
I don’t think Everyman would be as entrancing without its lavish interior design and film memorabilia. I think that it appeals to some part of the brain that craves nostalgia of a bygone era, desires a time when cinema was in its golden age, and I find that idea really appeals to everyone of all ages who loves and cherishes filmmaking.