While the pandemic’s impact on the big circuits grabbed most of the headlines, it has brought challenges to the entire exhibition sector — including the independent cinemas whose connection with their local districts and embrace of all aspects of film culture plays a powerful role in the moviegoing experience. Screen celebrates 15 indie cinemas from across the globe that have navigated Covid to remain a force in their communities.

Aero Theatre - Santa Monica, US

The Aero Theatre

Source: American Cinematheque Theatres by The Social Factory LA-21

The Aero Theatre

Operated by: American Cinematheque
Number of screens / total seat count: 1 / 425
Number of full-time staff for the organisation: 14
Pandemic closures: March 13, 2020-June 10, 2021
Pandemic support: Federal government with SVOG and PPP; HFPA grant; membership support
2021 admissions: 32,647 (June‑December)
Average ticket price: $10 ($8 members; $13 general)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): Nightmare Alley
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): Big Laughs On The Big Screen film series

Designed by architect RM Woolpert, the Aero Theatre opened in Santa Monica in 1940, with the American Cinematheque taking over the space early this century and programming everything from a recent Wong Kar Wai retrospective to a collection of 70mm classics such as Vertigo.

“It is the quality of exhibition. It’s the respect of the audience, the respect of the filmmaker,” says Gwen Deglise, deputy director and co-director of programming, about Cinematheque’s approach to its mission. “But it has to be fun as well, so [the tone] is not academic. We are thinking, ‘How do we bring [together] all the voices that you can hear in LA?’”

Bolstered by government grants, as well as Netflix’s purchase of the Cinematheque’s storied Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, the company was able to weather the pandemic while reassessing its relationship with the audience.

“We have the luxury of being a non-profit, [although] we need to break even, we need to fundraise,” says Deglise. “It’s really about fostering community.”

And community is something the Aero has: an all-ages audience hungry to see great films on the big screen, often supplemented by Q&As with the filmmaker or stars. “We have a super-educated audience,” says Deglise. “They’re so cinephile — they know what they want. The movie theatre as a cultural organisation space is a place where you foster that community in LA.”

Tim Grierson

Artnine Mini-Theater - Seoul, South Korea


Source: Screen File

Artnine Mini Theater

Owned by: CreActive New Generation (CAN)
Number of screens / total seat count: 2 / 150
Number of full-time staff: 7
Pandemic closures: None
Pandemic support: Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism support programmes through the Korean Film Council (Kofic) for sanitisation and ticket coupons
2021 admissions: 40,000
Average ticket price: krw10,000 ($8.20)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): The French Dispatch
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): Coming To You

Located south of the Han river in Seoul, Artnine Mini-Theater has managed to stay open throughout the pandemic. “We did update the projection system while keeping one screen open at a time, and set up a full HD 4K LED screen on our restaurant terrace, where audiences could sit under a roof in the open air,” says CEO Xangdean Jung.

Jung also runs buyer/distributor Atnine and is a founding member of the Association of Korean Buyers & Distributors of Foreign Films (KBDF). His experience running commercial multiplexes Megabox Isu — with which Artnine shares its building — and Megabox Paju Book City, both of which are also owned by CreActive New Generation (CAN), motivated him to start Artnine. “I wanted to start an arthouse cinema where I could show the films I wanted, and not have programming dictated by anyone else,” he says.

At time of writing, the cinema is seeing sold-out screenings for the 4K Japan Movie Festival — so named for showcasing films by a quartet of Japanese directors whose family names start with K: Naomi Kawase, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Takeshi Kitano. Other showcases have covered filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch and Krzysztof Kieslowski as well as stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Leslie Cheung, and a programme of films from local buyer-­distributor Pan Cinema.

Jean Noh

The Astor Theatre - Melbourne, Australia

The Astor Theatre

Source: Screen File

The Astor Theatre

Owned by: Palace Cinemas
Number of screens / total seat count:1 / 1,100 (sells to 900)
Number of full-time staff: 1
Pandemic closures: March 30-May 12, 2020; July 8-October 27, 2020; February 12-February 17, 2021; May 27-June 10, 2021; July 15-July 27, 2021; August 5-October 21, 2021
Pandemic support Australian government: 
2021 admissions:
25,000 approximately
Average ticket price: $18.50 ($13.80)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): Star Wars trilogy 35mm marathon
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): Spirited Away 20th anniversary

The Astor Theatre is Melbourne’s iconic single-screen art deco picture palace that opened its doors in 1936. Designed by architect Ron Morton Taylor, today the historic building is home to double bills, special events and a cat named Duke (pictured). Having survived being twinned or multiplexed in the 1960s and becoming a repertory house under new management in the 1980s, The Astor has continued to defy the odds. Bought by Australian independent cinema chain Palace Cinemas in 2015, The Astor remains a unique repertory cinema in the grand old tradition.

“We have found The Astor, even in the era of streaming, still holds a special place in the fabric of Australian cinema exhibition,” says creative director Zak Hepburn, “with curated programming celebrating filmmaker-focus seasons, anniversary events and 35mm/70mm presentations.”

It is this unique programming — free from shifting new release schedules — that has helped it bounce back from Melbourne’s many and strict lockdowns, notes Hepburn. “While it is still a long road to get back to 2019 business levels, the versatile nature of The Astor has shown that the glorious picture palace still has it where it counts.”

Tara Judah

Bio Paradis - Reykjavik, Iceland

Bio Paradis cinema

Source: Screen File

Bio Paradis

Owned by: Association of Icelandic Film Directors, Association of Icelandic Film Producers, Icelandic Filmmakers Association
Number of screens / total seat count: 3 / 385
Number of full-time staff: 5
Pandemic closures: March 24-September 18, 2020; March 25-April 14, 2021
Pandemic support: Icelandic government support; Europa Cinemas grant 
2021 admissions: 32,152
Average ticket price: isk1,132 ($8.77)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): N/A
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): Another Round

The programming ethos at Bio Paradis, Iceland’s only arthouse cinema, is simple: “We screen everything the commercial cinemas do not screen,” explains managing director Hronn Sveins­dottir. The programme has a mix of major festival award winners, documentaries, smaller independent films and classics, as well as offerings during local festivals and seasons. Even more specialist fare includes knitting-­friendly screenings and film nights from the local S&M society (presumably not overlapping). “We also run an extensive film literacy programme at the cinema,” she adds.

Even before Covid-19, 2020 was already a tumultuous year for the cinema, which was founded by a group of film professionals’ associations in 2010 and is the only cinema in downtown Reykjavik. It faced closure due to lease problems but this was resolved in autumn 2020 and the cinema has been renovating and upgrading since then. “We are always working hard at being the best arthouse in the arctic,” says Sveinsdottir.

Because Iceland is a small territory, the cinema itself has to acquire the Icelandic rights to many films each year, even if they only play at the one cinema (Bio Paradis also has a streaming platform and sells on TV rights). “If we didn’t distribute, subtitle and release these films in Iceland, the general public would not have access to some of the most important current films of our times,” notes Sveinsdottir.

Wendy Mitchell

Cinema Akil - Dubai, UAE

Cinema Akil

Source: Screen File

Cinema Akil

Owned by: Butheina Kazim
Number of screens / total seat count: 1 / 133 (plus a part-time outdoor cinema with 90 seats)
Number of full-time staff: 5 (plus two part-time remote team members)
Pandemic closures: March 14-June 12, 2020
Pandemic support: None 
2021 admissions:13,855
Average ticket price: aed50 ($13.61)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): House Of Gucci
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): The Man Who Sold His Skin

Cinema Akil is situated on Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, a hub for art galleries, craft stands, hipster cafés and trendy eateries in a former warehouse compound in the city’s Al Quoz neighbourhood. Butheina Kazim opened the venue in 2018, out of an itinerant pop-up platform she first launched in 2014, to fill a “gaping hole” for independent cinema in the Emirati exhibition sector. It specialises in that, but also runs more mainstream fare “if it fits the bill”.

Akil’s Ramadan programme, running April 1 to May 1, includes Lebanese director Ely Dagher’s The Sea Ahead, Turkish-Kurdish filmmaker Ferit Karahan’s Brother’s Keeper and a restoration of Youssef Chahine’s 1958 classic Cairo Station. There is also an Italian Film Week scheduled for May that will include a tribute to the late Italian actress Monica Vitti and the UAE premiere of Giuseppe Tornatore’s Ennio. “Every film attracts a completely different crowd and that’s part of the objective of the cinema — to cater to the multi­cultural faceted communities that live in this city that’s home to over 200 nationalities,” says Kazim.

The cinema was shut for three months at the beginning of the pandemic and then ran at a restricted capacity until February of this year, when all restrictions were lifted. “We’ve only been back at full capacity for less than two months so it’s hard to gauge an accurate reading if we’re on the road to recovery,” says Kazim. “But there’s certainly an improvement. Outdoor screenings still perform better.”

Melanie Goodfellow

Cinema Victoria Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Cinema Victoria

Source: Screen File

Cinema Victoria

Operated by: Victoria Film Association
Number of screens / total seat count: 1 / 283
Number of full-time staff: 6
Pandemic closures: March 16-September 9, 2020; October 21, 2020-February 10, 2021; February 13-May 21, 2021
Pandemic support: National Center of Cinematography (CNC) 
2021 admissions: 25,100
Average ticket price: ron11 ($2.40)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): House Of Gucci
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): Another Round

Built in 1928, Cinema Victoria is the oldest continuously functioning cinema in Cluj-Napoca and one of the oldest operating in Romania. Since 2011, it has been operated as a public-­private partnership between the local municipality and the Victoria Film Association.

The theatre is one of the main venues for the annual Transilvania International Film Festival and Comedy Cluj International Film Festival — the largest comedy-themed film festival in Europe. This April, Cinema Victoria also served as a main partner for the 10th edition of ClujShorts International Short Film Festival, and as a warm-up event for the American Independent Film Festival.

“We invest a lot of energy in creating a place of cinema education and discoveries,” explains cinema manager Gabriela Badea. “That’s why we host many events for young viewers and special screenings of shorts by local and national filmmakers who are at the beginning of their careers.”

All Covid-related restrictions were lifted in March and Badea has already seen a 20% increase on admissions over the first two months of this year. “We are working on attracting the public back to the cinema after all these confusing times and I’m sure that slowly people will be back in front of the big screen,” she says.

Martin Blaney

Delphi Filmpalast - Berlin, Germany

Delphi Filmpalast

Source: Screen International

Delphi Filmpalast

Owned by: Delphi Filmtheater Betriebs
Number of screens / total seat count: 1 / 673
Number of full-time staff: 5
Pandemic closures: March 17-July 1, 2020; November 2, 2020-June 30, 2021
Pandemic support: Regional film fund Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg; Europa Cinemas grant 
2021 admissions: 36,000
Average ticket price: €10.20 ($11)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): Nomadland
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): The Royal Game

Known to Berlinale regulars as one of the venues of the International Forum of New Cinema since 1981, the Delphi Filmpalast first began showing films in 1949 after previously housing the Delphi Palast dance hall from the late 1920s. The cinema is one of the few remaining in Germany where films can still be shown in 70mm — most recently Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza — and also has the country’s largest auditorium for an arthouse cinema. It has been a partner theatre of Berlin’s Yorck Cinema Group since 1984, although still operates as an independent concern.

While filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and Wim Wenders are among the theatre’s fans, the many gala premieres hosted by the Delphi have attracted guests as diverse as Hollywood stars Jodie Foster and Leonardo DiCaprio as well as former German chancellor Angela Merkel.

“We used the time of the second lockdown to expand and renovate our foyer area and installed a brand new 4K laser projector at the beginning of 2022,” points out cinema manager Jan Rost. In addition, the German Federal Film Board recently granted funding for the cinema to invest in a new sound system.

Martin Blaney

Depot Lewes - Lewes, UK

Depot Lewes

Source: Screen File

Depot Lewes

Owned by: Lewes Community Screen (charity)
Number of screens / total seat count: 3 (plus studio) / 348
Number of full-time staff: 14
Pandemic closures: March 18-August 13, 2020; November 6-December 3, 2020; December 25, 2020-May 17, 2021
Pandemic support: UK government’s Culture Recovery Fund grant £128,001 ($166,500) in total, of which £95,201 ($124,000) so far received 
2021 admissions: 72,578
Average ticket price: £7.07 ($9.20)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): No Time To Die
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): The Father

Depot came into being after Carmen Slijpen, who had been active in Lewes’s film society, connected with local businessman Robert Senior, who shared her vision that their East Sussex town deserved its own cinema, the last one having closed in the early 1970s. Initially, Depot was set to be part of a development including a hotel, and Slijpen was wary the cinema might be used as a carrot to win planning permission and later jettisoned — but the opposite occurred. The hotel development did not proceed, but with generous support from Senior, the £8m ($10.4m) Depot opened in May 2017.

Sustainability is baked into the Depot, which has geothermal heating, solar panels, a ‘living roof’ and — instead of a car park — a garden space (public transport is encouraged and there is a bike park). A sustainability manager continues to assess policy in this area.

Community engagement is at the heart of the project and, as a charity, Depot benefits from an active volunteer scheme, with up to 40 volunteers ushering customers or helping in the garden.

“They are great ambassadors for our cinema,” says Slijpen, who is the theatre’s director and programmer. Although the cinema’s customer base skews older, the public areas retain a youthful buzz, thanks to free wi-fi and water.

“They sit in a nice space with their laptops and headphones on,” says Slijpen. “As soon as we opened our doors, Depot became the ‘Hub of Lewes’. One of the most regular remarks we receive is about how busy we are at any time of day.”

Charles Gant

Light House Cinema - Dublin, Ireland

Light House Cinema

Source: Screen International

Light House Cinema

Owned by: Element Pictures
Number of screens / total seat count: 4 / 600
Number of full-time staff: 8 (plus 21 part-time)
Pandemic closures: March 12-July 27, 2020; September 19-December 1, 2020; December 23, 2020-June 24, 2021; December 15, 2021-January 20, 2022
2021 admissions: Unavailable from cinema
Average ticket price: €11 ($11.93)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): Dune
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): Another Round

Pandemic support Irish government’s Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme supported approximately 65% of salaries from introduction in September 2020, with further support through the reduction of employer PRSI to 0.5%; Covid Restrictions Support Scheme supported 6.5% of average weekly 2019 turnover during closure periods, with double weeks on re-opening; Dublin City Council restart grant of €32,500 ($35,400); Screen Ireland support of €40,000 ($43,500) with €34,000 ($37,000) received to date

Located in the north of the city, Dublin’s beloved Light House Cinema has become a bustling part of the fabric and culture of the Irish capital. Blending arthouse and mainstream programming, the cinema’s ethos is to bring the movies to everyone, according to head of programming Charlene Lydon.

“We are proud of the broadness of our film programming,” she says. “We like to make sure that whatever we’re playing, it speaks to everybody as much as possible. And whether that means you’re there to celebrate the new Marvel film or you’re gathered together to watch the Oscar films, an old film or a foreign-­language film, it’s making sure everybody feels like the space is for them.”

All four screens are below ground level, along with a large bar area and a café on the ground floor. Each screen has a different colour palette, with multicoloured seating in screen two. The spacious design means there is plenty of room for events and cinema exhibitions.

“We did an exhibition of props from Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch,” says Lydon. “Wes Anderson being king of props, it was pretty amazing. A few years ago we had an exhibition of gowns that were used in The Favourite. They added to the experience of seeing the film.”

Esther McCarthy

Louxor Palais Du Cinema - Paris, France

Louxor Palais Du Cinema

Source: Hemis Alamy

Louxor Palais Du Cinema

Owned by: Paris City Hall (Ville de Paris)
Number of screens / total seat count: 3 / 556
Number of full-time staff: 12
Pandemic closures: March 21-June 21, 2020; October 29, 2020-May 19, 2021
Pandemic support: Government furlough payments for staff 
2021 admissions: 115,359
Average ticket price: €5.70 ($6.25)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): Dune
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): Paris, 13th District

Louxor Palais du Cinema is one of the most beautiful cinemas in Paris, with its art deco, ancient Egypt-­inspired décor. The crowning glory is its double-balconied main theatre named after the iconic Egyptian director Youssef Chahine.

Opening its doors in October 1921, the Louxor’s highs and lows chime with those of cinema in France. Its popularity peaked in the 1940s, as audiences flocked back to theatres after the Second World War, but it went into decline in the 1970s and closed its doors in 1983. After a brief revival as a nightclub, it was abandoned for 25 years.

Paris City Hall acquired the building in 2003 and began a reno­vation programme. In 2012, the public contract to run the venue was awarded to a consortium led by Carole Scotta and Martin Bidou of film company Haut et Court and Emmanuel Papillon, who is now its director. Reopening in 2013, the Louxor now champ­ions arthouse and classic cinema — recent films have included Japanese director Yukiko Sode’s high society tale Aristocrats and a season of silent Harold Lloyd classics aimed at children.

“The pandemic hit us hard after a very good 2019, and admissions are still fragile,” says Papillon. He suggests post-­pandemic cinemagoers are looking for easy mainstream fare, but the Louxor will not be tweaking its programme. “We’re known as an arthouse cinema — changing the programme to become mainstream would not encourage people back.”

Melanie Goodfellow

Lux Nijmegen - Nijmegen, Netherlands

Lux Nijmegen

Source: Screen File

Lux Nijmegen

Owned by: The Lux Foundation
Number of screens / total seat count: 8 / 845
Number of full-time staff: 29 (plus 23 part-time staff and volunteers)
Pandemic closures: December 15, 2020-June 4, 2021; December 19, 2021-January 2022
Pandemic support: Netherlands government support of €1m ($1.2m) 
2021 admissions: 85,000 approximately
Average ticket price: €7.50 ($9.75)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood)Nomadland
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): The Father

Opened in 2000, the Lux — owned by the non-profit Lux Foundation — is the largest and one of the most beloved arthouse cinemas in the Nether­lands. Situated in Nijmegen’s city centre, Lux hosts not only film screenings but theatre, music, dance and debate events. It is a film education hub for the east of the Netherlands and hosts festivals devoted to shorts, science and climate change, among other subjects. The city has a large student population, and the venue attracts a younger crowd than most arthouse cinemas.

“It’s a very large arthouse with a lot of visiting public each year and a lot of screens,” says managing and artistic director Pien Houthoff. “With film, we are focusing on more thematic programming, for example the big festival about climate change. [The venue] is very diverse. That makes it very special.”

Geoffrey Macnab

 Ost For Paradis - Aarhus, Denmark

Ost For Paradis Facade

Source: Screen International

Ost For Paradis Facade

Owned by: Ole Bjorn Christensen, Ditte Daugbjerg Christensen, Line Daugbjerg Christensen, Uffe Sloth Andersen
Number of screens / total seat count: 7 / 311
Number of full-time staff: 10 (plus part-time staff and volunteers)
Pandemic closures: March 12-May 28, 2020; December 9, 2020-May 5, 2021; December 19, 2021-January 15, 2022
Pandemic support: Danish government and city of Aarhus
2021 admissions: 64,629
Average ticket price: dkk90 ($13)
Most successful release 2021 (Hollywood): Nomadland
Most successful release 2021 (non-Hollywood): Margrete: Queen Of The North

Ditte Daugbjerg Christensen, managing director of Ost For Paradis, notes that the special atmosphere at the Aarhus-based cinema starts with the building itself, which is more than 100 years old. “A part of it was even blown up during the Second World War,” she says. It became a cinema in 1978 and “we have done restoration through the years with great emphasis on preserving the building, its special atmosphere and its history”, she adds. The building’s facade is currently being renovated.

The programme mix is “arthouse and upmarket”, and because the company is also a distributor, all of its own acquisitions also play at the cinema (recent titles include A Chiara, Great Freedom and Ninja­baby). Christensen praises the audience in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-biggest city, “a great mix of super curious young students and empty-nesters — and everyone in between.”

The cinema hosts a number of festivals each year including an LGBTQ+ event and an architecture festival, as well as German, French, Hispanic and Palestinian film days. Its repertory offerings, in collaboration with the Danish Film Institute’s Cinemateket, screen twice a week.

In fitting with that upmarket programme, no popcorn is served at the large café, which focuses on high-quality coffee, wine, chocolate and other snacks.

“Our mission,” Christensen adds, “is to shine a light on circumstances for life in far­away places or ‘hidden’ societies that the Danish audience do not normally hear about — often with a focus on minority groups and a social or humanistic angle to provide a larger understanding of the world surrounding us.”

Wendy Mitchell

The Projector - Singapore

The Projector c Martin Latif

Source: Martin Latif

The Projector

Owned by: Pocket Cinema
Number of screens / total seat count: 3 / 557
Number of full-time staff: 20
Pandemic closures: March 27-July 15, 2020
Pandemic support: Rental waiver for four months and job support scheme 
2021 admissions: 91,800
Average ticket price: s$13 ($9.50)
Most successful release 2021: (Hollywood) Nomadland
Most successful release 2021: (non-Hollywood) Drive My Car

The Projector is located in a historic venue dating back to the 1970s, when it housed The Golden Theatre, the largest standalone cinema in Singapore and Malaysia with more than 1,500 seats. In 2014, The Projector refurbished the venue and opened two screens, mixing vintage design with modern furnishings; a third screen was added three years later.

General manager Prashant Somosundram was worried about cashflow when the pandemic shut all cinemas in March 2020. He introduced an adopt-a-seat programme, which allows patrons to print their name on the vintage flip-up seats for s$120 (around $88). The community rallied to the theatre’s aid, buying all available 300 seats.

“This gave us a lifeline and a breathing space,” says Prashant, who also set up streaming platform Projector Plus (P+) to continue operation during the pandemic. “This platform did well and hosted the Singapore International Film Festival in 2020. It has served its purpose during Covid, but now it is less a priority because our audiences still prefer the big screen.”

Seating capacity continues to be capped at 50%, so The Projector has turned an abandoned nightclub at Riverside Point (which was also a cinema in the 1990s) into the 48-seat Projector X facility, which opened in May 2021. Prashant says Projector X was intended to run as a pop-up for 18 months, while a permanent cinema was being constructed in the prime Orchard area. The pandemic, however, has caused delays to that project — the 150-seat single-screen cinema was due to open at the end of this year. But once completed it will also focus on the social experience, with a bar and a café and an event space for live performances.

Silvia Wong

The Rex - Berkhamsted, UK


Source: Screen File


Owned by: James Hannaway
Number of screens / total seat count: 1 / 294
Number of full-time staff: 6
Pandemic closures: March 19-August 1, 2020; November 5-December 2, 2020; December 19, 2020-June 24, 2021
Pandemic support: UK government’s furlough scheme and a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund of £283,223 ($369,000) 
2021 admissions: 22,986
Average ticket price: £10 ($13)
Most successful release 2021: (Hollywood) Dune
Most successful release 2021: (non-Hollywood) The Rescue

A one-screen art deco cinema in the heart of Hertfordshire, south-east England, The Rex has become a beloved institution in the local community. The cinema first opened to the public in 1938, standing on the site of Elizabethan mansion Egerton House. It closed 50 years later, in 1988, and became derelict,

but after being Grade II-listed by English Heritage and following a campaign by local entrepreneur James Hannaway — now the founder and sole director — it was refurbished and reopened in 2004.

“Our programme is eclectic and daring, including many foreign-­language films and emerging indie titles as well as blockbusters and classics, which keep our dedicated audience coming back for more,” says Hannaway. Patrons are also tempted by the luxurious auditorium with a fully stocked bar and table seating downstairs.

Helped through the pandemic by the UK government’s furlough scheme, which Hannaway described as giving the cinema “the security and confidence to care for our loyal staff and enable us to reopen with a full complement of trained people at a moment’s notice”, and a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund, The Rex’s customers also provided “fabulous” support by continuing to purchase vouchers online.

“Making a profit has never been our main motivation,” says Hannaway. “We campaigned to restore the building as a way of preserving a piece of history, and our unique aim has always been to offer a luxurious cinema experience, to support the local community and to champion the independent film industry.”

Nikki Baughan

Waseda Shochiku - Tokyo, Japan

Waseda Shochiku,Tokyo

Source: Screen File

Waseda Shochiku, Tokyo

Owned by: Shochiku Eiga Gekijo KK
Number of screens / total seat count: 1 / 153
Number of full-time staff: 2 (plus 10 part-time staff)
Pandemic closures: February 28-May 31, 2020; April 18-20, 2021; April 25-May 31, 2021
Pandemic support: Support funds from Tokyo Metropolitan Government
2021 admissions: 38,000 approximately
Average ticket price: ¥1,300 ($10.45)
Most successful release 2021: (Hollywood) Double bill of American Utopia and Amazing Grace
Most successful release 2021: (non-Hollywood) Eric Rohmer retrospective

The Waseda Shochiku was founded in 1951, and since 1975 has been one of Tokyo’s best places to catch a double bill — and all for less than the price of a first-run film. That has made it a favourite for students at Waseda University, who helped bring the cinema back to life when it was in danger of closing in 2002. “I used to visit on my way home from school,” says managing director Daisuke Hirano. “It was great to see a lot of movies for not a lot of money.”

Hirano, who took over management duties in December 2020 during the pandemic, says that while the Waseda Shochiku is currently operating at full capacity and hours, it does not feel like the cinema is out of the woods just yet. “I can’t shake that anxious feeling of, ‘When will things go back to the way they were before?’” However, Hirano has taken comfort from messages left by fans on social media — and, more importantly, that they keep showing up to see films.

For Hirano, the biggest appeal of the Waseda Shochiku remains that “it doesn’t matter where a film is from, when it was made or what genre it is — if it’s interesting, we show it”

Matt Schley