Friday, 1 May 2009

Hyde Park Picture House stages BBC first

The Hyde Park Picture House played host to Radio 5 Live’s Simon Mayo show, the first time it has been broadcast away from the BBC’s London headquarters.

Almost 300 people queued for nearly four hours for the chance to be in the audience for the programme’s Film Reviews segment, headlined by the popular critic Mark Kermode.

Airing every Friday, Mayo and Kermode’s dissection of the latest cinema releases has developed a cult following, regularly attracting over six million live listeners, while the podcast version is the most downloaded movie show in the country, hitting on average 134,000 subscribers each week. The pair are famous for jovial bickering and inventive games.

Kermode, who is also resident movie critic for BBC2’s The Culture Show and regular Observer contributor, was thrilled with the turnout:

“We didn’t really know how well it was going to go as we’ve never done the live thing before,” he said. “But it was incredibly successful and we were absolutely thrilled that so many people, with such a wide range, turned up.”

The pair, who had earlier been interviewed by LSRfm, were initially sceptical at how performing in front of a crowd on stage, rather than alone in a studio, would be received.

“It’s completely different when there’s just two of you sitting in a studio with a microphone in the middle talking to each other,” Kermode said. “You’ve got no real sense of how many people are listening.”

Throughout the hour-long output the audience were asked for their opinions on the highest grossing films that week. The quality of analysis offered was no surprise to Kermode.

“People were funny and witty and had intelligent things to say,” he said. “There was no delay; we trusted the audience and assumed they were up to speed.

“I’ve always been fairly knocked out by the standard of contribution from listeners’ emails. The idea of dumbing things down to be populist has absolutely no merit.”

Kermode, as famous for his opinions as his quiff, thought the listed building was an excellent choice of location for the inaugural roadshow event and advocated the wider consumption of art house cinema:

“It was a lovely place to start. The Hyde Park has a real sense of history and theatre – it’s such a fabulous building.

“I do think there’s something about in art house cinemas. People forget they used to call them picture palaces; they were a little bit like going into church.

“People didn’t go into them and treat them like they do now and just talk all the time and use their mobile phones; they treated them a little more respectfully. I think the place you watch a film actually affects your reaction to it.”

Show producers revealed to Leeds Student that the next outside broadcast would take place in Edinburgh in June, to coincide with the city’s famed film festival.

Originally published in Leeds Student on May 1 2009

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