We see out 2008 with a reminder that the Bioscope Festival of Lost Films returns on Monday 5 January and runs for five days. The five films (with accompanying shorts) have now been selected, after rigorous checks by our team of researchers to ensure that none exists in any archive around the world. No clues about what will be shown, but we can guarantee a star or two, some surprises, and a touch of controversy.
We can, however, give some organisational details for those who want to plan ahead. For a start, there are the venues. As was the case last time, each is a building that was cinema in London in the silent era, but now has either turned to other uses or is simply no more. They have been chosen for their distinctiveness and for their variety. So, our festival venues will be:
- The Theatre de Luxe – small but luxurious cinema in the Strand, established in 1908 as one of London’s first cinema circuit, formed by Electric Theatres (1908) Ltd., and now a branch of Optical Express
- The Jardin de Paris – a select venue in the heart of Soho, opened in 1909, closed in 1916, its space now occupied by a hotel
- Wonderland – Whitechapel’s notorious home of Yiddish theatre, boxing bouts and freak shows, which also put on film shows and burned down in 1911
- Pyke House Cinematograph Theatre – a grand building at the east end of Oxford Street, once the centrepiece of the famed Pyke circuit, now a Waterstone’s bookshop
- The Picture House – located at 161-167 Oxford Street, one the site of where a Hale’s Tours of the World show once ran, and where the Academy Cinema of fond memory was to stand until recent times, and which is now a Marks & Spencer store
For those of you planning to stay over in London for the festival, we would like to recommend the Savoy, conveniently located in the Strand close by our opening venue, the Theatre de Luxe. Discount rates are available for festival attendees who are able to stay five nights and can bring an empty can of film to the hotel desk as evidence of your intentions (please call the hotel for details). For those who may find that the cost of the Savoy a little steep (particularly if it comes on top of any steamship costs for those travelling from overseas), we have done a special deal with a number of humbler establishments along Gower Street in Bloomsbury, within stout walking distance of most of our venues. Call the festival office (you know the number) for more details.
Prices are 6d, 3d and 1d for standing at the back, with a special ha’penny ticket for children (please note that some of the films we will be showing may not be suitable for younger eyes – contact the festival office for further information). You will realise, therefore, that we have kept our prices fixed for well nigh a century, which is quite a bargain in these straitened times. Boxes are a shilling per person, to a maximum of four. Festival notes will be provided on the night, and we hope that you will make the most of your time with us to visit the sights of this great city. For eating out, we naturally recommend the Strand’s best-known restaurant, Romano’s, evocatively described here, even if today it is the home of Stanley Gibbons, the stamp emporium.
For those who may be new to this unique event in the film calendar, please be aware that the Bioscope Festival of Lost Films is a celebration of silent films that were shown once but can be seen no more. All of the films, though they may be described in such realistic detail that they may appear irresistibly before your eyes, no longer exist. All that we can do is peruse those documents which record their presence, study the extant images, exercise our imaginations, and sigh.
Do join us on Monday.