Cinema Crawl: Curzon Soho

Image: AlexDavClark

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.

The Place

One of the best looking cinemas in London, Curzon Soho is among the largest jewels in the considerable crown of the Curzon mini-empire. An ‘independent chain’ known for their plush venues and arthouse releases, Curzon operate some of London’s most desirable cinemas, with Soho the pick of the bunch. Located on Shaftesbury Avenue it could scarcely be in a more sought-after location in London’s thriving Theatreland. Bigger than it appears from outside, the cinema goes two floors underground, with the screens themselves at the lowest level. There are three auditoriums in total, each with standard but comfortable seating. They are 249, 112, and 133 seats in capacity, offering a good size screening space, but nothing overwhelmingly large.

The real draw of Curzon Soho over other London cinemas is what lies above the screens, with two vibrant, bustling bars providing the perfect place to relax with a drink and a bite to eat before or after the film. The first is at street-level, open and bright, walls bedecked with light pink neon. By day this has much more of a café feel, but at night looks as busy as any other spot in this part of London. Downstairs is nominally ‘the bar’, a chic, dark space with yet more neon and myriad film posters adorning the walls. Regardless of its status as a cinema, Curzon Soho is a nice place to visit as a café or bar in its own right, and might be cheaper and less heaving than other West End spots on a Friday night.

The Films

As with all Curzon cinemas, in the heart of Soho you will find a good variety of films, from wider releases to some of the smallest productions released on the big screen. Alongside its chain of cinemas, the company has a distribution arm that handles cinema releases. Most notably, they recently worked on the UK release of Bong Joon-ho’s astonishing Parasite. This can also lead to Curzon getting some hot-ticket events in their cinemas, many of which take place at this Soho venue (or at their Mayfair cinema). Céline Sciamma, for example, dropped in last month to talk about her masterpiece Portrait of a Lady On Fire.

There are also occasionally films you can find at Curzon cinemas that you might struggle to find elsewhere. In particular, some Curzon-released films that are being made available in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema the same day (like Portrait of a Lady On Fire) won’t be screened in any rival Picturehouse cinemas because of the latter company’s strict adherence to theatrical windows. Whatever your thoughts on this topic, Curzon Soho itself has a generally very good selection of films to pick from. It also plays host to a variety of special seasons and festival screenings.

The Price

The Curzon chain is not renowned for being cheap. Add to that the fact this cinema is in one of the most costly areas in London and you have a fairly expensive trip to the cinema on your hands. Off-peak a ticket will cost you £12.50, but rises to £16.90 after 5pm and all through the weekend. You can knock £1-1.50 off for students and seniors. Whilst there are cheaper London cinemas to visit, there are not many with such a central location and that can provide such a gorgeous place to spend time before and/or after the film.

Where things get interesting with Curzon cinemas is in their tiered membership options. With this being a London venue, all membership prices are in the higher bracket; check out their cinemas in Oxford, Knutsford, Ripon, Canterbury, Colchester, Wimbledon, and Sheffield for a much cheaper proposition. The lowest membership level at Curzon is their Classic offering, which here will give you 4 free film tickets and a reduction on ticket prices for you and a guest. This costs £65 for the year (£55 for students and seniors) and is the lowest commitment of all the Curzon memberships.

A big step up then comes to the Cult option, which acts more like a subscription service with entry to all films coming free. This will set you back £350 per year, which equates to roughly 21 peak-time adult tickets. So if you plan on visiting Curzon Soho twice a month then this membership would be well worth it. And that’s without considering the discount on tickets for a guest and on entry to events, such as Q&As. The final, highest level of membership is Curzon Complete. This is best split between two as it gives free entry to all films and events for both you and a guest. In other words, you are free to wander in and out of the Curzon Soho as much as you like, for the sum of £950 a year. Higher commitment than the Cult option, this would require roughly 28 visits over the year for both you and a guest to make your money back. For some, however, this number of visits can be easily achieved, especially if you live in central London. All of these memberships are valid at all Curzon venues around the UK, not just this Soho site, and also come with a free Curzon magazine and a 15% discount on food, drink and DVDs purchased at any Curzon venue bar Wimbledon.

A membership also entitles you to a discount on all Curzon Home Cinema prices. This is the streaming service run by Curzon which offers a great choice of international cinema for individual rental. On here you will find the independent and arthouse flicks that may not have worked their way onto Netflix or Amazon, plus Curzon manage to get some films onto their service pretty quickly after cinema release, and some are even given a dual-platform release, where they are available for £9.99 on Curzon Home Cinema the same day they hit the big screen. On top of the discount on each Curzon Home Cinema rental, all Classic, Cult or Complete members get access to Curzon 12: a specially curated, rotating selection of 12 films available to stream for free at any time. Current selections include 45 Years and Force Majeure.

Finally, if you are a student, then Curzon offer a free-to-join membership that gives you a free trial of Curzon 12, access to members’ previews, special student member-only events, and of course money off tickets. Like all their memberships, it also makes you exempt from all booking fees. It’s free – why wouldn’t you join?

Curzon Soho is best thought of as a treat of a cinema, somewhere you go not just to see a film but for a good day or night out. It’s vibrant and lively bars make it a great place to visit in the West End, irrespective of the film you are seeing. The great film selection and multi-platform membership perks are always a plus with Curzon too, especially when you might have to get your new-film fix under quarantine.

Andrew Young