Hidden Gems of Birmingham - The Electric

Scratch beneath the surface of our city and you'll find some real hidden gems. So we have set out to explore the best-kept secrets and unsung heroes of Birmingham. This week, Ana ventures to The Electric...

I rode the 126 bus to university every day for a whole year without realising the hidden treasure I was oblivious to every time I passed Station Street. Until one day, when my boyfriend, who has lived in Birmingham all his life, casually points out that “The Electric”, a building that looks more like a club than a movie theatre, is actually the UK’s oldest working cinema.

So I did the only rational thing you can do after finding out such news: I forced him to go on a date with me.

Because I enjoy surprises and I didn’t know what to expect of out this place since I knew so little about it, I decided to simply not do any research beforehand and even let him pick the movie. So, as I approached the cinema my expectations were quite low.

The building stands out only by the logo on top and seems to be hidden on the most random street of Birmingham. It is not the type of place that will stir your curiosity if you walked by. Maybe that is why it is such a gem!

But the first thing I noticed while approaching it was the old fashioned entrance: a few stairs that lead up to a massive double door, two posters on each side of a movie that is currently showing and a small board on top with the name of the cinema and another movie title, all written in the classic theatre font.

If it wasn’t so clean, it would have looked like one of those abandoned cinemas in horror movies. But the only shock I suffered was a positive one. Shocked how modern it all is, shocked how friendly the staff is, and shocked that I waited until now to visit it. You walk in and it instantly feels like you've been transported back in time 50 years with the light and unique decor and little cardboard ticket stubs. I fell in love!

We were sold the tickets (which are surprisingly affordable) through one of those glass windows that leaves enough room just for a quick cash-for-ticket exchange, just like in the old times. The lobby at the entrance is simple and cosy. First the registry, right next to it is the bar and just before the door that leads through the actual cinema room, another small lobby that leads to the restrooms.

The cinema room is quite small and intimate and because the place attracts only a specific type of clientele, the atmosphere is relaxed and quiet. So enjoying yourself comes naturally. When we found out that for only a slight difference in price we could update for one of the sofas we did not hesitate. So there we were, at the back of the theatre, with a perfect view to the screen, in a comfortable couch for two and with a menu full of goodies to choose from.  Man, I felt spoiled! For extra leg room you can always opt for the first row’s lounging chairs that come with a footstool. 

The best part was the modern twist to such a classic place. The quality of the screen was excellent, the audio was spot on, the bar is fully licenced to serve alcoholic beverages (everything from beer to absinthe) and to order all you had to do is text the number on the menu, and everything is brought to you. Paradise of the lazy. But I couldn’t think of a better place to spend your Sunday night right before another mundane Monday.

The only negative thing about this cinema, and a big flaw in my eyes, is the fact that they do not serve popcorn. But their Poptail Cocktail is a brilliant option and it will soon make you forget the disappointment you felt when you couldn’t indulge in popcorn during (or mostly before) the movie.

If you really dying to see older classics on the big screen, this is the place to go. Because while they do not miss the most recent cinematic updates, they also offer a unique selection of old movies that are a must watch.

“What an absolute jewel” reads a Trip Advisor review and I couldn’t agree more. The oldest electric cinema in the UK, The Electric was recently restored to its original art deco interior. It has two screens: the larger 35mm screen on the Ground Floor (Screen 1), and a newly-opened fully digital screen on the First Floor (Screen 2 that provides 4K jaw dropping picture quality).

The movie we watched reflected the allure of the cinema perfectly. My boyfriend, big fan of the original Ghostbusters movie opted to see the latest version of it. Not only was he impressed by the amazing visual effects and overall quality of the cinematographic piece, but he was ecstatic to see original characters come back to life. A modern spin that honours its roots; The Electric Cinema.  

Review written by SWOOPE content partner 
Ana Savuica

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