THIS IS THE ELECTRIC?
(From the 10th Anniversary Programme February 1979.)
Many things have been said about the Electric, some of them repeatable. Unfortunately, only those in print have been preserved for posterity; those merely spoken are often more enthusiastic, almost always more colourful, in one way or another. Generally, the Press have concentrated on our programming, complementing its various virtues in sometimes extravagant, but always, of course, truthful terms. “The electric, which has done more to widen cinematic horizons in London over recent years than practically any other cinema” (Derek Malcolm, Guardian) “The NFT’s efforts have been put into the shade particularly by the Electric ... for some time it has carried a torch on the London film scene. It has the most flexible approach, offering a wide choice that incorporates American B-movies, art cinema, and the Avant-Garde. Films are plentiful, seasons imaginative, and programming rich and challenging without being pretentious” (Chris Petit, Time Out). We could not have put it better ourselves. Even the New Statesman has called us a “galvanic alternative to the NFT”!
The other angle frequently taken is to compliment the “atmosphere”. This appears to stem partly from the building itself, which, old as it is, has “character”, a certain je ne sais quoi; and partly from the attitude of the staff, who are not only generally very interested in films, but also try to be as helpful as possible, treating customers as people rather than tickets to be torn. Tony Rayns of Time Out, amongst many others has described the Electric as “London’s friendliest cinema”, whilst David Thomson, in Sight and Sound picked out the Electric as the exception to the rule that cinemas showing good films must be stuffy, reverent and serious. “The most atmospheric of cinemas from that past era ... if London lacked an Electric, or if its adventurous programmes ever faltered, that would be the moment for protest”. How very true! Certainly films are to enjoy, rather than to “appreciate”.
Various celebrities, mainly of the film and music world, have also had comments to make about or to the Electric. Brian Eno, for instance, interviewed in Sounds: “I never go out except to the Electric Cinema - mind you, if you only go to one place in London, that’s the wisest choice”. Or Lindsay Anderson’s perceptive words: “One for the matinee please.” Or Julie Christie: “Lovely sandwiches you have here!”. Or Michael Powell: “You wonderful people ... showing my films up there in Notting Hill!”.
But perhaps the pick of quotes comes from the famous international trade paper, Variety, plying its own inimitable lingo to describe the Electric as “Nabe avant-garde showcase”. One couldn’t say fairer than that.