Image: HOME Mcr
Film is not just about what we see on the screen, but where we see it. With the rise of streaming and the ease of accessing thousands of films without leaving the house or speaking to a soul, it is worth remembering that films are often best experienced not just on the big screen, but with an audience. Going to the cinema, however, is becoming something of a luxury nowadays. With ticket and snack prices on the rise, going to the pictures is sometimes dauntingly expensive. You want to make sure, then, that when you do go to a cinema it is worth your time and money. Our Cinema Crawl series aims to highlight the delights and defects of the most interesting, best value, and most spectacular picture palaces out there.
As many of us are aware, the arts world, like much of British society, is often frustratingly London-centric. Whilst London is an indisputable haven for the cinema lover, with idiosyncratic venues both large and small spread across the capital, it is important that the finest filmic institutions elsewhere in the UK are given their due. It seems appropriate, then, to begin our Cinema Crawl series at 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester.
Starting life in 2015, HOME is the country’s largest arts centre outside of London, and was a £25 million project to create. A merging of the city’s Cornerhouse cinema and the Library Theatre Company, HOME has been a big part of the regeneration of a previously unremarkable spot in Manchester that has now become a thriving area full of bars, restaurants and general frivolity. Lying not far off Oxford Road, HOME is well-located in Manchester’s city centre and is just up the road from its beloved Cornerhouse predecessor.
There are five screens – all of which are wheelchair-accessible – ranging from 227 seats, a great venue when packed full, to an intimate 33-seater room. The venue houses far more than just these five cinemas however. With two theatres, a bar, a reasonably-priced restaurant, gallery space, and free exhibitions on its corridor walls, HOME is a joy to behold for culture lovers.
It is also a delight to see HOME taking a green approach to their independent cinema business. With two bee colonies on their roof, eco-friendly staff training and a cycle to work scheme, they appear to be taking their responsibility to the environment seriously. Their commitment not just to the whole planet but to the local community in particular is clear. They run HOME Young Creatives, a series of free projects and workshops for talented 15-25 year-olds looking for a career in the arts. This collection of excellent initiatives is the icing on the cake of what is a superb venue.
We are all well aware of the problem one encounters with a ‘superb venue’. These excellent independent cinemas may have character, charm, and swanky bars but they usually come at a cost. HOME however, helped by being outside of the capital, allows you to enjoy its cultural hub without breaking the bank. An adult weekend ticket is admittedly still no bargain at £9.50 a pop, but that’s as high as it goes and still cheaper than the equivalent ticket at many other venues. Members can save £2 on peak time tickets, with concession tickets dropping by the same amount for all showings.
The off-peak screenings (before 5pm Monday-Friday and before 3pm on the weekend), if you can make them, are where the real bargains lie. If you are a member and eligible for a concession, then you can be visiting HOME for just £4.50, with even a standard adult ticket only getting up to £7.50 during these times. For students and unemployed customers there are even cheaper concession advance tickets with limited availability at £5 for both cinema and theatre.
Taking one look at the selection of films at HOME shows the programmers’ desire to promote independent, arthouse films. With multiple screenings of the lesser-known gems that get missed off entirely by some cinema chains, HOME is Manchester’s place to be for cinephiles. This does come at the expense of blockbusters, it must be said. But in deciding to not attempt to rival the large chain multiplexes in showing Avengers: Endgame and the like, HOME shows a confidence in its own approach. Manchester has plenty of mainstream cinemas for you to attend, so HOME instead commits to making sure the little films get their moment in the sun.
This selection of new releases is supplemented by various intriguing seasons. Their upcoming strand showcases lesser-known Indian cinema and is part of an ongoing Women in Global Cinema showcase. Alongside their selection of films, you may also want to pop in to one of HOME’s events and Q&As, which in the past have included the likes of Danny Boyle, for their opening ceremony, and Mike Leigh for the world premiere of his Peterloo last year.
All in all, HOME is one of the finest cinematic hubs in the country. A splendid building, rich, varied programming, and reasonable pricing combine to make it a venue well worth visiting. Just don’t expect to see Star Wars there.