Bristol vs Manchester

2 06 2010

I cannot be the only film lover who gets a little pang of excitement and sense of anticipation when sitting in a cinema soon after the lights have dimmed and the short plug for Europa Cinemas appears, names of cities across Europe flashing up and then dissolving into the EU stars, the music a solitary guitar and drum.

It appears before every film shown at the Watershed, one of the 769 member cinemas in 442 cities and 31 countries. (For a map of all the member cinemas across Europe, click here.)

The objective of Europa Cinemas is to “provide operational and financial support to cinemas that commit themselves to screen a significant number of European non-national films, to offer events and initiatives as well as promotional activities targeted at Young Audiences and to screen digital European films”.

I was in Manchester over the weekend visiting an old friend from university and decided to visit the Cornerhouse, Manchester’s centre for contemporary visual arts and film. For those who haven’t been, the Cornerhouse is Manchester’s version of the Watershed, just a bit different.

The Cornerhouse, like the Watershedand and the Tyneside in Newcastle which I regularly visited while a student in Durham, is a member of Europa Cinemas. It has three floors containing art galleries (there is currently an exhibition by Iraqi artists, the first in the UK), a bar, cafe and bookshop. The three cinema screens includes the largest one in the building across the road. Cornerhouse Publications is also an international distribution service for contemporary visual arts books and catalogues.

What is most different about the Cornerhouse and the Watershed is their use of space. The Cornerhouse’s downstairs shop is a delight, with a superb selection of books on European cinema, like 20th Century Flicks in Clifton but in book and magazine form.

I have always thought that it a shame that the Watershed’s shop is in such a small area, with only a small number of DVDs for sale. It could be yet another reason to visit and the number of people in the Cornerhouse’s shop showed that there is an audience for these publications. Art exhibitions are also something the Cornerhouse is able to host thanks to the space they have.

So, Manchester vs Bristol. Who’s the winner? Bristol of course, but I strongly recommend a visit to the Manchester, its trams, huge new Beecham Tower and the Cornerhouse.

Photo by Rob Watson



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