Hidden on George Street in the Grade II listed building that used to house the Sheffield Banking Company is Sheffield’s newest permanent cinema The Curzon. Part of a cinema chain of just 11, with Sheffield and Harrogate being their only northern ventures to date, Curzon Sheffield’s three screen offering attempts to stand out from the crowd by seducing its patrons with a luxury cinema experience. The lobby’s beautiful towering arch windows and meticulously mismatched furniture are a refreshing change from the décor monotony of your typical chain cinema. Far from a one trick pony Curzon is also a film distributor for big name indie flicks including Still Alice, Wild Tales and Timbuktu. Sounds promising but unfortunately it seems that the Curzon wasn’t planning on keeping things friendly with rival local cinemas for long and it’s here we find the Curzon’s local controversy.
In 2015 Curzon Film World used its power as the owner of distribution rights for the Swedish dark comedy Force Majure to prevent the Showroom cinema from showing the film on its opening weekend. This is despite the Showroom championing many Curzon Film World distributions immediately upon their release in the years prior to Curzon Sheffield’s opening. In a city as proud of its roots as Sheffield, a London based company is asking for trouble by playing this sort of corporate trick. However, apparently no one had told Curzon this and so rumours of its distribution rights holding Godzilla feet from the big city stomping down on our beloved local Showroom sent ripples of unapproving mumblings throughout the Sheffield film scene. If the Curzon was a taxi firm it’d be run through an app and have had Parisian cabbies protesting on the roads months ago.
For me what I find most baffling is the cinema’s pricing structure. Take it’s recent The Last Man on the Moon Q&A evening for example. The evening was due to be a live Q&A with a featured astronaut from the film Captain Gene Cernan. Well. A live Q&A if you happen to live in Soho! To the rest of us peasants it was merely a skype recording, which when faced with the prospect of £14 a ticket I could happily have watched at home in my pyjamas.
Curzon also held The Last Man on the Moon Q&A evenings in Soho and Canterbury. Canterbury too will set you back £14 a ticket (at least Curzon Sheffield had the ingenuity to host a telescope gaze and the after discussion was on the delightful rooftop bar, Canterbury got zilch). Understandably the Soho tickets were a whole £1 dearer at £15, but…wait…what’s this? Student discount? Senior discount? Why is it that students and seniors in Soho get a discount when Curzon Sheffield and Curzon Canterbury have just the single price point? Now as a student card holder I don’t take too kindly to being told that I have to pay £2 more than a student in Soho to watch a recording of the live Q&A they are having whilst they still have enough change to get themselves bag of crisps to enjoy with the film, and lets not forget to take a minute to pray for our forgotten brothers and sisters in Canterbury paying £14 a ticket with no live astronauts, no telescopes and no change for a glass of pop.
Another great example is their showing of the film noir classic The Third Man, shown at the Curzon with another two figured ticket price, citing itself as a rare opportunity to see one of cinema’s masterpieces on the big screen. True it was a rare opportunity however not rare enough as Sheffield Student Union’s fantastic cinema society ‘Film Unit’ also showed it but at less than a third of the price.
The Curzon does have its selling points, the rooftop bar is a gem right in the centre of the city but at £10 per glass of wine I’m happy to stick to one of the handful of other beer gardens the centre has to offer. The seats themselves are comfy, although upon taking the only remaining seat in a busy Doc Fest showing last year the Brit inside me was appalled to see that there was no arm rest between myself and my neighbour (although of course the Brit inside me also would not let me make a fuss about it at the time).
Ultimately though we can applaud it for doing the one thing we always need a new cinema to do- bringing us more variety. The film seasons ooze high culture, heavy with art and theatre, which is always welcomed but then we have to ask ourselves again – ‘Am I really going to pay double figures for something that looks like it might potentially have the possibility to maybe be interesting?’ Similarly I was quite excited to see that they showed Todd Browning’s terrifying, black and white venture Freaks, although once again not quite excited enough to reach for my purse, although I will admit I considered that one a bit longer.
Ultimately though I just don’t feel that it has the breadth and passion that we see at the Showroom. Its respectable attempts to stylise itself within a beautiful building are well executed, but for me it just can’t compete with the personalities of pockets of cinephiles all over the city popping up their own film nights at a couple of quid a pop. One thing is for sure though, if you’re planning a trip to check the Curzon out, be prepared for your wallet to lose a bit of weight because £50 for a ticket for two people with a glass of wine each leads me to believe that this luxury cinema experience is just a little bit too luxurious for quite a few of us.