The book presents a never-before-written case study of the UK-based organisation Secret Cinema – widely considered the leading provider of large-scale immersive experiences in the UK. They are used as a lens through which to understand the wider experiential economy. The book provides a comprehensive and encyclopaedic history of the organisation and its productions. It defines and examines the Secret Cinema format. It critically interrogates the work and operations of Secret Cinema as an organisation and analyses the many layers of audience experience. It combines rigorous academic study with practical industry insight that has been informed by more than fifty in-depth interviews with Secret Cinema practitioners and sector professionals who have worked on immersive productions in areas including performance direction, acting, video design, sound design and composition, lighting design, special effects, stage management, operations and merchandising. Framed within the context of the UK in late-2019, at which point the immersive sector had grown significantly, both through its increasing contribution to UK GDP and its widespread and global recognition as a legitimate cultural offering, we have captured an organisation and a sector that is in transition from marginal and sub-cultural roots to a commodifiable and commercial form, now with recognisable professional roles and practices, which has contributed to the establishment of an immersive experience industry of national importance and global reach. This book will appeal to scholars, students, film fans, immersive experience professionals and their audiences. It is written in an accessible style with rich case study materials and illustrative examples.
One thing about the SecretCinema audience is that they were non-traditional and they were exploratory, they were romantic, and I think that these are the kinds of people who will be drawn to this.
SC performance designer
In this chapter, we turn our attention to the central facet
In this chapter, we trace the history of SecretCinema through its first seven years. We present a highly experimental and exploratory period which is born of the historical antecedents of itinerant cinema, fairground and festival. During this prolific period, SC initiate and engage in numerous strands of film screening activity and events, seemingly building their own entire secret empire, which is captured in figure 2.1 below
the in-world microsites; social media accounts; flash mobs and pop-ups; the different places, sites and spaces of the productions; the pre-screening-show; and the screening itself.
Timeline of the audience's experiential journey in the SecretCinema format.
The aesthetic and creative influence of festivals fell away in this
simultaneously promoted as a fundraising event in support of the Refugee Council, raising £11,000. This was a significant event in relation to the production of a particular audience identity and the SC brand identity and we shall return to a discussion of the fundraising event shortly.
The 4 May 2015 flash mob for SecretCinema presents … Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back . A promotion for the upcoming event, which
There was always this overambitious quality to it. It was always about making it bigger.
SecretCinema creative director
I don't even know if there's a method to his madness. There's a market for his madness is probably a better way of putting it
money from building a short-term theme park. You make your money from building Disney World.
As we have demonstrated, up to 2019, over its fifteen-year evolution and seventy-five productions, SecretCinema's multiple and fractured identities, branding, titles and creative experimentation were stripped back, synthesised and unified into a
, branded immersive theatre offers
unique challenges towards immersion: one is always reminded of the fiction via the
(re)telling of the story but expected to experience it as if it were happening in the
moment. For example, SecretCinema’s production of participatory film screenings
engages in fan tourist activities. During these events, audiences view a film in unique
locations while also interacting with diegetic elements (via actors, staging, and props)
based on the film’s narrative (see Kennedy, 2017 : 178). In