Cinema: Studio 74, Exeter Phoenix
Price range: £7 normal price, £5 for students and under 25s, or a deal of 3 films for £18.
When I ventured back to Exeter a few weeks ago, Daisy and I made a typically in-advance plan to go and take in Boy Erased at Studio 74: the small but lovingly formed cinema inside the Exeter Phoenix arts centre, just set back from Gandy Street in the City Centre.
Opened in 2015, they’re the only ‘truly independent cinema in Exeter,’ which I’m sure isn’t a little dig at the Cineworld-owned but independent-presenting Picturehouse, though I enjoy it if it is. Powered partly by solar energy (another USP), the screen has only 74 seats – which kind of sounds like a lot, but feels incredibly intimate when you’re in there. Aaaaand I’ve just realised that’s why it’s called Studio 74. Nice.
To cut to the chase: Studio 74 is wonderful. And my favourite thing about it – the number one best thing ever – the audience. It always, always seems to have the most incredibly well behaved film watching audiences of any cinema I’ve ever been to, and this is in a screen so intimate that you’re pretty likely to notice any talking or coughing or munching or shuffling. I’ve often mentioned (moaned) that the Exeter Picturehouse crowd LOVE to talk at full volume throughout every film (which I reluctantly attest to everyone being a bit old and a bit middle class), but that just doesn’t happen here. Heaven.
The first time we went there we were so pleasantly surprised at this hidden gem that we were overcome with cinema joy (a frequent but still notable emotion for us). After picking up our tickets at reception, I asked the lady serving if we could take drinks from the bar in with us, and she laughed heartily and said ‘Of course?!?’ as if it was absolute madness to consider that I wouldn’t be allowed to do that. If that wasn’t already enough to make me fall in love, the wine is also extremely reasonably priced, and the bar is relaxed enough to chill out at for a while before the film starts. Also I am forever thirsty (constantly slightly hungover) and they always have a jug of water up for grabs on the bar, which is very thoughtful.
The seats are comfortable, extremely pleasant people actually take your tickets (I always resent paying when someone doesn’t validate me by looking at it) and there isn’t an excess of adverts or trailers. It’s all just well thought out, smooth running, easy going cinema happiness, and writing this has made me realise how much I like it.
The other thing to note is the selection of films. This isn’t an Odeon level of choice – there’s normally a few different films to catch weekly, and they might be a few weeks after the original release date. But what works so well about this is it means you get a second chance to catch something you’ve missed when it’s already left the big chain cinemas (exactly why we went to Boy Erased). It’s also where we’ve managed to catch documentaries and foreign language films that weren’t showing anywhere else – whoever is selecting the films fully has their head in the game and for that we are forever grateful.
They also organise Big Screen in the Park – the original and easily the best outdoor cinema in Exeter, and the line up for this year is the best yet. Come to London please?
There isn’t much to dislike about Studio 74, but in the name of balance: once when I went it was very hot. I think it was literally in 2015. Do with that what you will!
Also, the intimacy of the screen does mean that sometimes if you pour wine into your glass mid-film it’s a bit loud and you feel bad about upsetting the serene and perfect audience members. Same for needing to leave for the loo – these two instances are in some way related.
This is so one of those things where you don’t want to encourage too many people to go because it might ruin it. But considering the joyful, well-priced haven it is and that the Exeter Phoenix is a charity, I think it might be ok. YOU SHOULD GO HERE.