Home cinema equipment isn’t only for the home; in fact, home may not be the best place for it. If you really want to see the effect of a good digital projector and a set of surround-sound speakers, put them in the back room of a pub.
An increasing number of publicans are doing so. There are at least four pub cinemas in my narrow slice of south London. They bring in regular custom on quiet nights, and can help landlords make good on the ferocious cost of their Sky Sports subscriptions. In the age of austerity and the £12 movie ticket, they make sense for viewers, too.
My pub-cinemagoing has been done at the Montpelier, in Choumert Road, Peckham, which is at the more serious end of the phenomenon. Its small back room is furnished with a thick door, a broadcast-studio-style ‘on air’ light, and padded benches that rearrange, at screening time, into pews. There are three showings a week, mainly arthouse fare, with the programme distributed via an email list. There are elegant home-made tickets, sold for £3. And when the lights go down, the room hushes respectfully.
In some respects, of course, it cannot match even the smallest screen of a multiplex. The seating isn’t raked, and the evening begins with a DVD menu rather than trailers. The hush doesn’t extend outside the screening room: at the quieter moments of Patience (After Sebald), the sounds of nature were joined by the distant clinks and chomps of people enjoying a Monday-night burger offer. But the comfort and the picture quality are good enough to let you lose yourself. And very few cinemas serve such nice beer.