New film festival launches at Sheffield historic cinema

This weekend saw the birth of the ‘Cult Festival Weekender’ presenting contemporary cinema’s enduring classics at the historic Abbeydale Picture House.

Following the success of previous events, Reel Steel – a film magazine and screening group – decided to put on their very own weekend event from 15 to 17 March.

Joe, a co-founder of Reel Steel, said: “The Cult Weekender Film Festival is essentially a celebration of films which hold a cult or classic status.”

It is the latest addition to the rich variety of film festivals that Sheffield hosts across the year, featuring alongside the popular fest, Sensoria and Celluloid Screams.

Nic Orasa, 26, a film studies graduate, said: “I’m so pleased that Sheffield’s cultural landscape seems to be expanding rapidly with great events like this. Reel Steel have done a good thing.”

While screenings of classic films in independent cinema’s is not a new phenomenon, it is Reel Steel’s choice to honour films often forgotten, in a grade II listed building, that gives the weekender an unusual edge.

Films such as ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Battle Royale’ and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ were experienced in a new way, infused with the rich atmosphere of the 1920s picture palace.

“The majestic building seems a perfect match for these timeless, sensational films with royal status,” Orasa said.

All of the movies have been screened on 35mm film using Cinemecanica Victoria Four projectors, containing a 2000w Xenonlamp.

With the ever-increasing amount of low cost streaming services such as Netflix and Now TV against the rising prices of cinema tickets, is the authentic cinematic experience obsolete? And, is independent cinema moving from the art house to the every house?

Maisie Williams, 21, student at The University of Sheffield, said: “I do have a Netflix account and I probably use it everyday but I still go to the cinema, although not so much since I have been studying because of money.

“I don’t really understand going to see films in the cinema that have already been released though, you know, like Star Wars, you can just get it online,” she added.

Attendance numbers at Reel Steel’s event told a different story with ticket sales exceeding target and an overwhelming response on social media from across Sheffield.

Joe, co-founder of Reel Steel, said: “I think Netflix has been both good and bad, in some ways people have access to films who might not necessarily have access to films who might not be near an independent cinema or might not necessarily be able to afford to go regularly.

“At the same time we do think that film is best viewed on the big screen which is why we came to a venue as beautiful as this,” he added.

It seems that Abbeydale Picture House and other independent cinema’s alike, are not just another destination for a night out on the town or
merely a place to wind down after work, but a cultural hub and a centre for education.

Sunday’s screening of Spirited Away saw an array of parents and their young children fill the auditorium.

Lucy Kendall, a resident of Abbeydale Road, said: “It’s great that all generations are welcome, Spirited Away has always been a favourite of mine and now I can share it with my daughter, how it is meant to be seen, on the big screen.”

Reel Steel hopes to make the Cult Festival Weekender an annual date for the diary and the group will continue to be a bastion of film in the Steel City. Watch this space!