A salute to one of the West Midlands’s best indie cinemas.
Dan Cooper (@dcvertigo)
The multiplex is on the rise. Multi-screened constructions shadow our skylines like half-constructed Death Stars, and the humble, community-focused, independent cinema finds itself struggling to survive. Never has this been more true than in the Black Country, where one cinema is fighting tooth and nail to secure its future.
There’s an old legend that when Queen Victoria’s train used to sail through the Black Country, she’d wrinkle her nose in disgust at the beating industrial heart of her realm, draw the curtains and see no more. If it had existed back then, she would have missed the Light House, a former factory converted into the epitome of post-industrial cinema cool. Birthed in 1987, the Light House co-existed within Wolverhampton’s art gallery and theatre before finding its current home, the striking Chubb building in the centre of the city in 1991.
With libraries closing and arts funding rarer than rainbow-tooting unicorns, the Black Country’s only independent cinema takes its role as a guardian of both the arts and the community it serves very seriously indeed. Since 1987, it’s hosted the annual Deaffest, the UK’s leading deaf-led film festival. Closer to home, it regularly puts on screenings for the deaf community, plus those who wish to learn Japanese, Portuguese and even the Queen’s English, as well as bringing together lonely souls with the power of community cinema at regular Buddy Days. Proud to push burgeoning talents like Chris Overton (who’s since gone on to Academy Award glory with the short film The Silent Child), as well as other local filmmakers, there’s a whole generation of Black Country creators who first saw their work on the hallowed screen of the Light House.
One of the first cinemas nationwide to go digital, the Light House still operates a functional 35mm projector, operated with expertise by Jas Kapur, a 40-year veteran projectionist who has been accorded ‘Master’ status by Creative Black Country, a collective that handpicked 100 local craftspeople operating at the very apex of their field.
Arthouse in its beginnings, the Light House’s fare has evolved from fringe films to include more mainstream fare as it has moved out of the art gallery and began to contend with the might of local multiplexes. Despite fierce competition, and the loss of £100,000 of local council funding, Jas and his dedicated team continue to find ways to keep the Light House alive. Should you find yourself in the Black Country and longing for a unique cinematic treat, look no further than the Light House. See a film, help out a Black Country cinematic institution, make some new friends, maybe even learn a little Japanese… you don’t get all of that down at the local multiplex…
Address: Light House Media Centre, The Chubb Buildings, Fryer Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1HT
First ever screening: Cinema Paradiso (and then Edward Scissorhands in the venue’s current home)
Legends or hauntings? As a historical building, there’s been a few sightings, floaty things, standard stuff really
Dream double feature: Papillon (1973) Blade Runner (1982)