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The Dream Palace Review

Curzon’s Regional Marketing Intern Dan Beesley reviews The Dream Palace

Produced in celebration of Tyneside Cinema’s 80th birthday, Alex Ayre’s documentary The Dream Palace: A People’s History of Tyneside Cinema first seems like a simple detailing of the story behind the Newcastle-based independent exhibitor. However, throughout it’s short and sweet 74 minute runtime, The Dream Palace becomes something more ambitious, using the Tyneside as a backdrop for a larger conversation about independent cinema as a whole.

Comprised largely of interviews with many notable figures in the UK cinema industry – ranging from filmmakers and producers, programmers and curators as well as several long-standing members of the Tyneside’s devoted audience – the film packs in a large amount of fascinating anecdotes and stories about notable events in the cinema’s history. Being the oldest-surviving newsreel cinema in the country, we are taken through an extensive look at the exhibition industry in Britain. The early days of looped newsreels and cartoons, through the growth of arthouse cinema and film festivals, all the way through to the digital projection revolution of the past decade. Even for those of us who have never personally visited the Tyneside itself, it’s vast and complex history is fascinating as it gives a valuable insight into how cinema has changed in this country over the past century. If you’re old enough to recall the days of run-down fleapits, the Children’s Film Foundation, and 35mm prints so damaged it was hard to actually watch the film, the memories will come flooding back as a wide array of archive photos and footage are displayed over the various interviews.

But, although all this is certainly interesting to cinema enthusiasts, what makes The Dream Palace truly fascinating and worth seeking out are the questions it raises with regards to the future of the independent cinema industry. In a time where there is much discussion over whether traditional cinema can survive in the face of modern streaming services, and whether independent film distributors can survive in a more competitive market, The Dream Palace presents us with an extremely hopeful and uplifting view of the future of cinema. The interviewees who discuss their earliest cinema memories and why they love film make it very clear that the experience of going to the cinema changed their lives for the better, and the film is very eager to emphasise that the Tyneside and many other independent venues are thriving and seen as important cultural elements of their cities. Even the success and importance of Cornerhouse and HOME within Manchester through the years is given a mention (look out for the interview filmed in Cinema 2 with our very own Artistic Director of Film, Jason Wood).

Although it may not have quite the same effect here as it did on it’s showings in the Tyneside itself back in March, The Dream Palace is a must-watch for anyone with an interest in film exhibition, and will lead to plenty of post-screening discussion about everyone’s most memorable cinema experiences.

The Dream Palace screens here at HOME on Tue 21 August. Book tickets and find out more here.