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Cinema at the Arts Picturehouse

Posted by: Tom - MPW Student - 03 January 2019 - Activities & Sports - Read time: 2 Minutes

As has been a tradition at MPW Cambridge for many years, each half term Personal Tutors nominate one of their students for a Recognition Award to celebrate their hard work, their dedication to their studies and the successes they achieve along the way. Part of this award is a gifted student membership to the Arts Picturehouse, which offers a nice atmosphere, good food and a really nice mixture of the newest blockbusters as well as the one or other screening of one of the ‘classics’ from the last century.

Many students enjoy going to watch a film and in a vibrant university town such as Cambridge there is obviously a rich history of cinemas. However, the Regal remained the biggest and the best for some time, showing the newest films before any of the other places in town. When major releases came out, queues would build up early and snake around the front, right down the side passageway to the back of the cinema.


From the 1950s it was also the venue for a string of rock and pop acts that included Cliff Richard, Billy Fury and a band that was still relatively unknown – the Beatles. Interestingly, the Regal is not the only venue to host a legendary band before its heady days of fame: Formerly known as the Riverside Jazz Bar, The Anchor as it is known now used to play host to many young and aspiring musicians. Back in the day, they also played host to a young musician Roger Keith Barrett, soon to be known as Syd, and some of his friends. Following jam sessions and performances at the Riverside Jazz Bar, they would go on to form the legendary band Pink Floyd and secure their place in rock history.

Somewhat more modest in scale than the Regal, the original Arts Cinema in Market Passage opened in the 1930s as the Cosmo. Loved dearly by its countless fans, it had many quirks and faults: smelly drains, poor heating, no disabled access and – perhaps more critically – noise from outside during particularly gripping scenes. Its closure in 1999 was greeted with howls of protest and promises to open a bigger and better cinema back on the old Regal site were met with scepticism.

Pink PloydBut the critics were proved wrong. The site was acquired by pub chain J.D. Wetherspoon, who spent £1.8 million converting part of the former cinema into a pub. Up above, on the site of the old cinema’s restaurant, the Arts Picturehouse was born. With three screens, comfortable seating for 500 and an attractive 1930s-style bar area, the cinema became an immediate success. Art house films and live screenings of opera and ballet appear happily alongside more mainstream offerings. State-of-the-art projection equipment ensures the best possible experience: there are fewer than 30 cinemas in the UK with 70-millimetre projection capability and the Arts Picturehouse is proud to be one of them.