I spoke to Gemma Morrow and Nicola Green from Secret Garden Cinema, about their upcoming outdoor film season, and the logistics of multi-story cinema….
Tell us a bit about you both – you both studied in Liverpool is that right?
We went to school together and have been best friends for over 15 years. After leaving school we both went on to study consumer studies and marketing at Liverpool John Moores University. After graduating Gemma went on to gain a masters degree in International Banking and Finance while I went on to complete my MBA Master of Business Administration. We then both plucked up the courage to move to the big city down south, Gemma took on the role of a financial analyst for one of the top fts 100 companies. Nicola undertook the role of a commercial manager for one of the biggest retailers in the UK, however it wasn’t long before we both decided that we wanted to run our own business.
Have you been to any outdoor cinema events before? Are there any that you see as good models or inspiration?
Prior to starting Secret Garden Cinema we conducted extensive market research which included visiting numerous cinemas up and down the country, however there was one company in particular that stood out for us which was Rooftop Film Club in London. They started out with one outdoor event on the rooftop of a club with a small movie offering, and over the last 3 years they have gone from strength to strength opening another three outdoor cinemas across London. We find this massively inspiring as this is something that we would love to achieve.
What is your impression of film and cinema culture in Liverpool?
We are both massive movies buffs and love going to the cinema, however prior to setting up Secret Garden Cinema our perception of cinema culture in Liverpool was pretty limited. Having researched what’s out there in more detail we were actually amazed at the diversity on offer, from the mainstream players like Odeon and Vue to the community ran Small Cinema showcasing alternative culturally focused movies.
We feel that Secret Garden Cinema has been welcomed into the Liverpool cinema community with people being really open and accepting towards the rooftop cinema. Our aim is to grow Secret Garden Cinema into an established venture that will compliment the Liverpool cinema culture and add too the cities diverse and vibrant leisure scene.
Has it been a steep learning curve for you regards film licensing, event management etc?
Although our degrees and work experience have placed us in good stead the whole experience has been a massive learning curve for the both of us and we have had to overcome more hurdles than we ever anticipated. Securing the premises licence and discovering that planning permission is needed, would be extremely difficult for an established business let alone a new business venture. However we have had massive support and guidance along the ways a from Liverpool City Council, Liverpool BID and Filmbank
What practical / logistical challenges have you faced in terms of getting the car park roof? What made you choose that space in particular?
We scoured Liverpool in search of the perfect venue for Secret Garden Cinema before stumbling across Queens Square Rooftop. Once we were on the rooftop we knew instantly that it was the ideal venue for us, and the views overlooking the cities spectacular skyline only confirmed this. The team at the car park came on board straight away and have been extremely supportive throughout. Some of the biggest challenges that we have faced have been around securing a screen, large enough for the rooftop yet easy to assemble and portable so it can be taken from venue to venue. This hasn’t been easy however we have managed to resolve this issue by thinking outside the box.
What has the reception been like since you announced SGC? Have the events been selling ok so far?
Having worked on building the venture for some time now, we were really exited to launch as we knew how amazing it would be for Liverpool to have something like this in our vibrant city. That said nothing like this has been done before in the city and therefore we were unsure of what sort of reception we were going to receive. We have been overwhelmed by the response towards Secret Garden Cinema, the feedback has been phenomenal in such a short space of time. Secret Garden Cinema has gone from none existent to almost selling out of some of the movies in just a week. We have some amazing ideas planned in to delight our guests and are confident that this will be a success.
Finally – tell us about the programme – you’ve gone for modern classics and 80s nostalgia and in someways its an obvious ‘blockbusters ‘ collection. How did you settle on these 10 films, and what didn’t make the cut?
Selecting the movies was one of the most difficult decisions that we had to make, but it was also the most fun. There were definitely some obvious choices like Grease and Goonies as these are movies that we all watch over and over again. We wanted to cater to a diverse audience and ensure that we had a movie for everyone whether that be a laugh out loud comedy, an action blockbuster or a romantic love story.
Originally we wanted to keep the movie selection really small, however every time we spoke to somebody about Secret Garden Cinema they would say have you got such and such? That’s my favourite, to which we would be like “hummm we will have to add that one” and over time the listing just grew. On the second to last Friday of each month we will hold viewers choice screenings were the power will be given to our guest to decide what movie is shown. So overall we feel that the movie variety caters to all genres.
What’s next? You’re planning to work in other locations in Liverpool is that correct?
Secret Garden Cinema launches at Queens Square rooftop on the 24th July and will run through to the end of September. Once the rooftop events have closed at the end of the summer, that is when the fun really starts. Throughout the year we will have pop up screenings at secret locations across the city were guests will only be notified of the location hours before the event, so watch this space!
Secret Garden Cinema runs from 24th July, beginning with Grease – check out their full events programme here