Secret Cinema defends allocation of nearly £1m in government pandemic funding amid backlash

Event company stages elaborate multimedia screenings

Louis Chilton
Friday 23 October 2020 17:08
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Event cinema company Secret Cinema has released a statement after facing criticism for being allocated nearly £1m in the government’s pandemic fund.

Secret Cinema specialises in hosting “immersive” film screenings, often attended by audiences who dress up as film characters.

The UK government’s Culture Recovery Fun announced 10 days ago specified that Secret Cinema was to receive an allocation of £977,000.

The move was criticised by many on social media, with many suggesting the money would have been better directed towards independent cinemas.

“Can’t think of a cinema-adjacent company less deserving of a hand out than Secret Cinema. £977k is f***ing scandalous,” wrote one Twitter user.

Another described Secret Cinema as “the dumbest possible way to watch a movie for the price of about 10 tickets at one of the many indie cinemas that actually deserve such recovery funding”.

In a statement posted to the Secret Cinema website, company CEO Max Alexander issued a defence of the organisation.

“2020 has been an extremely difficult year for Secret Cinema,” he wrote, “from rescheduling shows, cancelling projects and taking the heart-breaking decision to make a third of our talented colleagues redundant.”

“Some questions have arisen on social media about our eligibility; mainly out of confusion about what we are and what we do. We aren’t a cinema and it seems that we have been a little too secret. So we’d like to lift the veil of secrecy and be transparent.”

The statement claims that the company’s events “cost millions” to run and “employ hundreds of staff”, who are paid “a minimum of London Living Wage or equity rates, where appropriate”. 

According to Alexander, the company currently employs 32 full-time staff plus two fixed-term contractors.

Secret Cinema had planned an event themed around the film Dirty Dancing earlier this year, that has been postponed due to the pandemic. Deals are also in place with Netflix and Disney for future projects.

The company was operating at a loss of £2.9m for 2019, and a loss of £1.4m for 2018, despite recording turnovers of £15.8m and £10.8m, respectively.

You can read the full statement here.

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