John Carpenter, live


On Sunday night we had the great pleasure of seeing and hearing John Carpenter, live, at Colston Hall. His filmmaking and musical talents have long been admired by those of us here in the video shop – and not just now, but by former staff members in the years before our times, too.


For me, it was also a first visit to Colston Hall. Despite its proximity to our shop I had never stepped inside. As a dedicated and stereotypical film nerd I tend to spend the big bucks I earn here at the video shop (ahem) on cinema tickets, fancy cheese and close to my body weight in red wine, but little else. So an outing to a venue with a large audience capacity was an unusual shock to the system.

It got me thinking. There must have been more than a thousand people sat around me watching, cheering and enjoying the audio visual show. But the man performing is also a filmmaker whose films would never attract anywhere near this number of people if screened even in the very same town.

Case in point: last month, as part of Scalarama 2016, we showed In the Mouth of Madness, at Bristol’s Cube Cinema, to an audience of around 60 people. The tickets to see the film were a fiver; attending Carpenter live was a little over thirty quid.


So, my question is this: is it only the live appearance factor that makes people turn up in droves to celebrate a renowned musician/filmmaker or is there something about venues and perceived forms of entertainment also at play?

For example, does ‘Colston Hall’ suggest entertainment that you can’t miss owing to its reputation as a venue that attracts world class acts? And does ‘Cube Microplex’, as an artists’ collective, with highly reduced ticket prices, suggest something you could watch at home or in another venue, thus removing the prestige and scarcity factors? I wonder, too, even though the performance at Colston Hall was visual as well as audio – there were several clips packaged together of footage from John Carpenter’s films, albeit sometimes in incorrect aspect ratios – is the visual (on photochemical film or in a digital format) considered an insignificant element in weighing up the attractiveness of paying to attend an event?


I ask because, even though I thought the concert was great and while I did have a splendid time, I still rate my best John Carpenter experience as when I saw Escape From LA (far from my favourite of his films) on a 35mm film print in the small but wonderful auditorium at Paris’ Grand Action cinema. And, as great as it was to see clips of his films set to live music, complete with his totally adorable dance moves, I would have loved to have seen those films shown in full, in the correct aspect ratio, with appropriate masking, on a big cinema screen, so much more.

I know I am often in the minority (I still think running a rental store is a good idea and I know it’s 2016), so some of these questions may indeed be rhetorical, but I’m keen to hear from other people on the issue. I would love to know about your perceptions of value entertainment, appropriate film and concert admission costs and the role of film as a form of entertainment both on its own as well as as a combined element in another style of live show. Please do comment below or send an email to my attention (Tara) at: info[at]20thcenturyflicks[dot]co[dot]uk

A bunch of John Carpenter films are available to rent at 20th Century Flicks and our Kino is available for hire if you want to get a group together and see something here. 


Let’s Talk VHS

You may have seen us talking VHS on The One Show on Tuesday night. If you didn’t, then you can catch up online via the iPlayer (we’re at around 12 mins in):

Since the show aired we’ve been inundated with calls and emails asking us if we want to take on home collections. For the most part, the only titles we do keep on VHS are those that aren’t available on DVD in this country. That means that about 95% of the time we already have what you have. Still, if you think you might have something super rare (if you’ve a video nasties collection you no longer need for example), then do send us a list of titles. That way we can check them out and let you know if we can take them off your hands.

Even though magnetic tape is in no way a superior, or even stable, format, there is a whole heap of nostalgia that surrounds it. It’s a strange beast, VHS, because we’ve reached a point where we don’t know what to do with them any more. No one wants them. Charity stores have been overrun with home collections, recycling plants have closed down and you can’t just chuck them out with your regular rubbish. To this end, eBay is fast becoming the best place to offload the clunky old things.

But because we do have a hoard of great films that we can’t get on DVD, we keep a couple of thousand in the shop, along with a VCR or two, to rent out to those of you whose viewing habits won’t be hindered by the arrival of discs and streaming.


And if you do love VHS, and indeed 20th century video shop culture, then we’d like to extend an invitation to you to attend one of our Scalarama strands: VHStival. Throughout September, every Saturday night – that’s the 5th, 12th, 19th & 26th – we’re running some late night lucky dip VHS celebratory hang outs!

We’ll be screening stuff from our weird and wonderful collection in both the Kino and at the counter from 10pm till around 12am. It’s free to turn up, seats won’t be allocated as it’s more of a ‘drop in and hang about’ kind of thing than an actual screening. We’ll have tea, coffee, soft drinks and popcorn on the go, plus you can do some late night film renting if you like.

I’d also like to encourage people to share their video shop stories – in person, or via email if you can’t come along and hang out on our VHStival nights. Video shops aren’t just for renting movies, they’re also spaces for conversations about films. So come along, have a chat, a damn fine coffee and duck into the Kino for a bit to see something of this ilk:

Shorts on the Steps

One of the greatest joys in my life right now is how fantastically breezy it is to wander out onto the steps and start cooking up  stupendously fun things to do with the good folk on and around the Steps.

One choc-ice induced conversation has led to a Scalarama event that is quite literally going to put the Steps on the (Scalarama-Screening Film) map.

Welcome to a wee blurb about SHORTS ON THE STEPS.


You don’t have to wear shorts, but you can.

Either way, you ought to bring cushions.

The screenings are free. They will happen on Friday September 25th, with pre-show BBQ & Bar (from 7pm, thanks to Bristol Cider Shop and Beat Root Cafe) and the films will be amazing Super8 and 16mm gems (from 8pm, thanks to Geneva Stop).

Oh, and you.

Yep, YOU.


We want them on Super8 or 16mm. We want them to be less than 5 minutes long. We want them to be submitted digitally (and if successful, exhibited in original 8/16 film format) to info[at]20thcenturyflicks[dot]co[dot]uk with ‘SHORTS ON THE STEPS’ in the subject header by 5pm Friday August 28th 2015.

We’ll screen a bunch and the audience on the night will get to vote for a winner. That winner will get themselves a free Mon-Thurs screening hire of the Flicks’ Kino. Sound swell? That’s because it is. Get involved. And may the photochemical film be with you.

Nicolas Cage Fest: Coming to a Kino Near You

This Scalarama, 20th Century Flicks are bringing the tiniest festival to the tiniest cinema in Bristol. Across three Wednesday nights in September (9th, 16th & 23rd), we (I) intend to screen three Nic Cage movies in the Flicks Kino.


While this means there’ll only be eleven seats available for each screening, it’s also an opportunity for Cage fans across Bristol (there must be at least eleven of us) to get together and revel in the gloriousness of the great, mesmeric man.


There’ll also be a couple of Cage-related competitions: Best Dressed Cage (extra points for efforts to recreate specific film examples of his ever-evolving hairline), Best Cage Impression (you perform it, we decipher the film/era), and a quick round of Cage Trivia. Prizes will take the shape of free rentals, of Nicolas Cage movies. Attendees will be encouraged to enthuse about Cage in what I promise to provide as a safe environment.

But, before we (I) get too carried away with the fun stuff, it might be a good idea to think about the limitations of only showing three NC films. It’s tough to select just three from the man’s vast and impressive filmography. And it is nigh impossible to showcase every era of his hairline in just three sittings.

Still, in the interests of best pleasing those likely to attend (someone will join me, right?), I’d like to take a wee poll on which films you’d be most keen to pay money to come see.


Program 1: Cagey in Love

Wild at Heart

Raising Arizona


Program 2: Caged Animal

Con Air



Program 3: A Cage of crippling debts

Drive Angry

The Wickerman

If you have preferences from each of the cagetories, lemme know in the comments section below.

Until September…