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What do we know about the Secret Cinema ‘Back to the Future’ fiasco?

Posted at 4:45 pm, July 28, 2014 in Arts & Entertainment, Secret London

Back to the future

Okay – so we now know that the latest Secret Cinema event, themed around Robert Zemeckis’s much-loved 1985 time-travelling film ‘Back to the Future’, has so far been nothing but a balls-up. Secret Cinema’s largest event so far was meant to open in east London last week. But then the organisers cancelled Thursday night’s press preview at very short notice. Then they cancelled the first public night on Friday (also at short notice). And finally, on Saturday, they announced that they were cancelling all planned events until the evening of Thursday July 31.

The cancellations prompted endless Tweets and Facebook messages from angry customers and onlookers amazed at Secret Cinema’s ability to squander the enormous amount of goodwill they’ve built up over the past few years. They’ve become a landmark on the London film/theatre/pop-up scene with their sumptuous – and increasingly expensive – events themed around films like ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Brazil’.

But what do we really know about what happened? And what are the plans for the rest of the run?

Will the event now start on Thursday July 31?

Maybe. The organisers of Secret Cinema have said they are ‘fighting’ to open on this date having cancelled the first four nights of a planned 28-date run.

Why were the first four nights cancelled?

So far, the organisers have declined to offer an explanation, only hinting that the local council was unhappy with their preparations: ‘We weren’t able to get to the position in which we were able to open with the local authorities happy,’ Secret Cinema boss Fabien Riggall told one newspaper. Riggall denied rumours that the cancellations had anything to do with animal welfare or health-and-safety regulations.

Was the event simply not ready?

Riggall has denied this, citing the fact that he had already run two full dress rehearsals before he made the decision to postpone. Others report seeing workers still painting the set in the shadow of the Olympic stadium in Stratford even after the scheduled start time for Thursday’s cancelled event. Photos have since been published of a large set built on one of the empty plots of land next to the Olympic Park. It looks sort-of-finished, with a life-size replica of the famous Hill Valley town-hall and a DeLorean with its iconic doors open most obvious.

Haven’t we been here before?

Yes. Only last year Secret Cinema cancelled the opening of a similar event in Croydon themed around ‘Brazil’ because of licensing issues. Riggall seemed to forget this when he gave an interview to the BBC last week, saying, ‘This is the first time in 10 years of doing these shows we’ve not been able to get there.’

Will ticket-holders to the cancelled events get refunds?

Yes. Although those who bought the £53.50 tickets won’t get back the additional £2.15 booking fee charged by the agency See Tickets. Ticket holders have already been emailed with details of how to claim a refund.

What about those who paid for travel and accommodation before the events were cancelled?

Secret Cinema is under no obligation to refund these costs. But they are considering them on a ‘case by case’ basis, and we’re told they have already started to reimburse people. Those curious are asked to email info@secretcinema.org.

Can I still buy tickets for the rest of the run?

Yes. There are 20 dates left (assuming they start this Thursday), and there are tickets available for August 14, 15, 17, 21, 22, 24, 28, 29 and 31.

But what the hell am I going to wear?

If you haven’t been put off by events of the past few days, you’ll find a handy guide to how to dress like the four main characters from ‘Back to the Future’ here.

Here’s some more film events happening this week that are definitely happening!

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