As the sun begins to set and the sea of punters – dressed from head to toe in their favourite 1950s garments, slowly start to choose their spots, and join their friends on the artificial grass, a question suddenly springs to mind: is there enough time to quickly run over to Lou’s Diner and buy a milkshake before the event is fully underway?

The best way to find out, of course, is to ask a Hill Valley police officer, and discover the exact start time of the picture we’re all here to see. “What time is the film, officer?” to which the stony-faced actor replies, “what film?”

It’s this acute, and meticulous attention to detail which makes Secret Cinema such a joyous, immersive experience for all involved. The aforementioned actor is not a real police officer, and it’s safe to say he knows a film is soon to start – but is he willing to drop character and answer a simple question? Absolutely not – and rightly so.

secret cinema bttf 3There’s been an incredible amount of bad press surrounding Secret Cinema in the build up to their most ambitious project yet, Back to the Future. All set to recreate the fictional setting of Hill Valley, the first handful of shows were cancelled with little notice, nor justifiable explanation – making yesterday’s event the unofficial opening night. However any such negative vibes are eradicated from the second you turn up at this secret location. From the moment you leave the train station, you’re greeted by a young woman with a floral flock, and ribbon in her hair, “follow the crowds” she says in a authentic, American accent.

As you arrive, you have your “communication device” deposited so as not to dispel the illusion of the event (and have people taking annoying selfies in front of the iconic Town Hall), and away you go. If you so fancy, you can be instantly ushered onto a school bus for a quick ride around town, or if you prefer the scenic route, have a wander yourself and explore the recreated carwash, or even peer into people’s homes, and walk around their 50s inspired bedroom.

Surrounding you, actors perform constantly, without an audience, they’re always in character. You walk past the Mayor, having an in-depth conversation with a friend about his plans for the future of Hill Valley. Nobody is listening, they aren’t projecting their voices for attention – they’re just adding to what is a quite miraculous event.

secret cinema bttfThis continues on throughout the night, as you can head into the local post office and write a letter for the seemingly beleaguered postman to deliver to somebody of your choosing, as he wonders around shouting out the name of the desired recipient. You can get your hair cut in the local barbers, or you can have a wonder around the school corridors, peering into lockers, and go for a drink at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance hall. That’s not to mention the plethora of additional surprises in store for the lucky ticket holders, that certainly shan’t be disclosed in this particular article.

It’s simply an incredible event, which truly brings the film to you. There are few more gratifying moments in life than watching one of your favourite movies with a crowd full of people, and a carnival spirit in the air, as everybody cheers, or starts to boo in unison, forming an atmosphere like no other. An atmosphere certainly enhanced when Marvin Berry and the Starlighters takes to the stage to play a series of classic rock and roll hits.

Oh, and the best thing about this entire event – is that there just so happens to be a rather good film showing, too. Which, at times, you almost forget is the reason you’re there. So don’t bother asking any actors/police officers what time the film begins, because firstly you won’t even get a response, and secondly, it really doesn’t matter.

All images by Al Overdrive.