In Conversation: Eric Piaget 2010

In conversation series:
Interview – Wednesday, June 16th 2010
Interviewee- Eric Piaget
Interviewer- Lucy Westcott

Eric Piaget Audio

Eric Piaget is a 21-year-old history student at the University of Sussex, starting his final year in September. I decided to interview Eric as he is originally from Boston and chose to complete his degree at an English university. While the United States boasts thousands of multiplexes- I once went to a 30-screen cinema in Illinois as well as a cinema that sold chicken strips as a cinema ‘snack’- it also has many independent cinemas in their original state like the Duke of York’s. In addition, the culture of the late-night screening is much bigger in America than it is here. I wanted to see what Eric thought of the Duke’s place in his adopted hometown of Brighton and whether he thought it represented something more than an example of English eccentricity.

On the first time he went to the Duke of York’s

The first film I saw there was ‘Burn After Reading’ and it was a very good film. The Coen Brothers are quite good directors and I always enjoy their films but it was the surroundings that made it enjoyable and memorable. Most films I go to I don’t remember later on. With most cinema experiences they don’t really strike me as enthralling, they don’t captivate my long-term memory. The Duke of York’s is certainly one of the most memorable cinema experiences I remember and the lack of corporate conglomeration that you see in other cinemas is really refreshing. You go in and you see all the old posters and the tiled floors and the bar and it looks much more welcoming. It just seems like quite a unique, hidden gem.”

On the Duke of York’s upholding the tradition of cinema

I really like history, and it’s great to know that the Duke’s is one of the forerunners of cinema culture, which was for a big part of the 20th century one of the most popular form of entertainment for the British population. The Duke Of York’s is basically one of the founding fathers of this tradition that, to some degree, encapsulates British culture and that is exciting to me. I never experienced anything like the Duke’s in America, just AMC (American Multi-Cinema, the second largest cinema chain in North America) and Loews Theatres (once the oldest cinema chain in North America, it was bought by AMC in 2006), massive theatres that whore themselves out to blockbuster films. That’s all they show. I know the Duke Of York’s shows some ‘blockbuster’ films, but they also show some really weird things that wouldn’t been seen anywhere else. And also these events that they run, like the Lord Of The Rings all-night trilogy? I think that’s a fantastic idea. Traditions like that, you don’t see that in other cinemas. So this is the Duke’s holding on to the cinema experience in a unique form.”

I have been to only two other cinemas in my life that compare to this. One being in Edinburgh, where you sit in a sofa recliner and you can get coffee and dinner served to you while you sit and watch a film. The other one was in Australia, which was a lot like Duke Of York’s, this one was Victorian by its architectural style and was probably built around the same time.

With the Duke’s you go to see a film and it’s not all you get, but if I go to the cinema anywhere else I’m just going for the film. That is the best point I can really make towards the Duke’s: it’s unique style and the fact that you go there for much more than the film. The two times I went there are my most memorable cinema experiences. I went to the cinema only a few months ago and I don’t even remember what I saw. It was at Cineworld, which was so plastic and fake, you just go there and they have all these really famous faces and you don’t really soak it up, it doesn’t feel like a real environment. “

On the difference between late-night screenings at the Duke of York’s and in America

To be honest, the late-night screenings didn’t strike me as that out of the ordinary at home. The AMC I went to in America didn’t screen films late at night just for the hell of it; they wouldn’t show the Lord of the Rings trilogy one random night. Instead, for example, the night a new Harry Potter film opens they will show it at midnight, but it’s still quite corporate. When the blockbuster comes out all the producers are planning out and strategizing when the best point is for this film to come out and when they will make the most money and the cinema just abides by that. You see, they do have these late-night screenings like the Duke Of York’s in America but they’re not for the passion of the film, instead they are for the passion of the profit.”

On his experience of a late-night screening

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson’ was screened during the 2008 Brighton Film Festival. In the spirit of the Hunter S. Thompson we drank on campus before the film and got a taxi to the Duke’s. Thanks to the bar at the Duke’s I was able to get drunk in the cinema! It was brilliant, but not just because of the film- like many people in that screening I fell asleep for a while- but just going in to the theatre and the atmosphere; the seats are very comfortable and you sink into them. There is just more of a crowd of people who go there that I enjoy hanging out with. I think someone even started smoking in the screening of ‘Gonzo’; that’s nothing to shout about but it further adds to that atmosphere that isn’t found in any other cinema.

On going to the cinema and paying to watch a film versus staying in his house and watching a DVD

If there was no price or I was very wealthy and could go every night, I would choose the Duke Of York’s over the comfort of my own room. Because it is nice to go out and mingle, as long as you’re mingling in some place you feel comfortable with. It really depends on my mood. A better question would be would I choose the Duke Of York’s over any other cinema and the answer would certainly be yes. I’m kind of introverted and like to stay in my house more often than not. When it comes down to every time I want to watch a film I would probably choose the majority of the time not to go to the cinema, but the times I would want to go to the cinema I would only want to go to the Duke’s.

On the Duke of York’s as a landmark of Brighton

Yes, I’ve mentioned the Duke of York’s before to my family and friends in Boston when they ask me about Brighton. It encapsulates the free-spirited world of this city, the lack of conformity. It is one of the features that defines Brighton. Cinema is such a standard part of human entertainment in the Western world, so often at times when I’m explaining things about Brighton I explain it in terms of entertainment, how we entertain ourselves. So, if I describe cinema I’d say it was quite a good representative of Brighton’s culture because it’s an amalgamation of not only film but also music and art.”

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