Film lovers of London UNITE! The Scoop, 7.30. Be there or you know what!

As the lights dimmed, a blanket of silence was draped over the audience, who, sitting still with anticipation, stared intently at the screen, waiting for a sign.

An image crept into view. Forty pairs of eyes followed it as it made its way across the screen.

“SIT DOWN!” The sillohuette prompty disappeared and the film began.

This was no normal film viewing. This was Friday night at The Scoop. But teeny-bopper shindig at the discotheque, it was not. Described as an “outdoor sunken ampitheatre”, The Scoop seats 800 and whilst the weather still remains dryish and warmish (this is London) will host a variety of free events. From “Bardathons” (ten hours of Shakespeare, hurrah!) to physical training sessions (probably ten hours of exercise, boo!), The Scoop, in short, is great.

From 15th September to 1st October, The Scoop is putting on film screenings. Hear ye, hear ye, free films for everyone! And what a mix! If a “near perfect” war film is up your street, The Hurt Locker is shown on the 22nd and Hitchcock’s North by Northwest is screened the next evening, if a wee bit of American suspense tickles your fancy. Although I’m not sure what nationality has to do with anything. For the more romantic, Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing are being shown the next two Fridays. So, boys. If you’re looking for somewhere to take your date, The Scoop will provide the atmosphere and entertainment that can transform you into the cultured, charismatic creature that you always knew you were. All you need to bring is a blanket (it does get VERY chilly) and a bottle of wine. And any place that allows you to bring your own booze gets my vote!

But like the food tasters in Ancient Rome, I have gone forth to try The Scoop out first. Hey, that’s the kind of girl I am. No sending you blind into the lion’s den, no siree bob. Not this time anyway. So, on Friday night, I braved the storm and battled the tempestuous seas so that I could experience the wonder of The Scoop….

Understanding the first-come-first-served basis, I arrived early. Note; half an hour early was probably a bit over cautious but I wanted to settle myself down in the best possible viewing spot and avoid staring at the back of someone’s head. However, whilst I would recommend getting there before 7.30, I think 7.15 is a perfectly reasonable time to arrive. That is your first pointer.

Next word of advice – wrap up warm!! You are going to be sitting on stone steps for the duration of the film, so if you’re worried about piles or numb bums (I’m a dreadful sufferer of pins and needles. Oh the tingles!) then bring something soft to sit on. I was watching The Bourne Ultimatum which was 115 minutes and whilst I didn’t desperately need a softer seat, I did get cushion envy off the well prepared Italian students sitting beside me. But clothes = a must. I’m not suggesting that you will be naked (think of the children!) but it does get a bit nippy. It’s kind of like Bonfire Night – you’re sat there with your toffee apple by the fire and you realise it’s time for the fireworks. You stand up, leaving the safety of your warm spot and suddenly find that you are cold. Oh so very cold. You wish you had a jumper but alas, you thought you were a hot shot. Yeah, you don’t look cool, you look like you need a hot cocoa and thermal knickers. Layers are the key.

The atmosphere of The Scoop lends itself amazingly to the film. Think the Drive-In in Grease. Ok, so you’re not in a car, nor are you only going to make out (you’ll only get in the way), but it’s kind of similar. T he screen is outside which means you can see the sky getting darker, which is naturally, very cinematic. There’s something about watching a film in the open air which is quite magical; something about having the wind in your hair that causes a twinkle in the eye. Plus, it’s on the the South Bank, home to some mega buildings with lots of lights installed. Yes, you may dread to think of the electricity bill but if you can cast your mind away from red bills for the duration of the film, succumb to the mystical beauty of the lights. But hold off the moth-to-flame attraction, you don’t want to miss anything.

My favourite thing about watching the film at The Scoop was the way in which the audience didn’t hold back. Sounds annoying, if you’re precious about your film, but as lover of audience participation; think sing-a-longs, pantomimes and hypnotist shows (yes I DID go onstage), I loved the way we all got involved. We’re not talking about chucking beer cans at the baddies; this isn’t a football match. Just the occasional cheer and boo. If anything it shows that the audience were still awake and that they were reacting in a way they saw fit. Good for them!

However, who’s to know how the audience may react on different days. It may just have been because it was a Friday and they had that feeling, but my fellow viewers were most exciteable. Perhaps it was Matt Damon and his super smooth spy antics or maybe it was too much fizzy pop, but there’s nothing like cheering on a shower throttling to bring a crowd together. We were united, as one.

So basically, I say go for it. Take some friends for a free night out, bring lots of clothes, food, drink, cushions if you’re weak and have a great time. And regarding the potentially mouthy of you; a bit of audience participation is wonderful but if you get rude after a few ciders and cannot control yourself, then stay at home. No lager louts or wine-y whingers here. This is a civilized affair.

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