Last month, I went to one of the final screenings of Secret Cinema's "Back the the Future", which was showing for nearly a month and a half this summer in a secret location in east London. (However, once looking at my photographs below, the many will recognise the location as the Olympic Park.) Secret Cinema built a replica of the 1955 version of Hill Valley, the town where "Back to the Future" took place. Each night, approximately 3,000 people attended the screening, and actors and actresses were on location to bring the 1950s town to life.
All visitors were immersed into the 1950s Hill Valley experience. This included dressing up in 1950s clothing, which 90-95% of visitors did, and by not bringing along modern technology (mobile phones and digital cameras). I did miss having my camera, but disposable cameras were allowed and on sale, so I took some photographs with them. Most of these did not expose or take well as disposable cameras are useless, so I only have a limited selection. The best of these are posted in this blog entry.
I dressed up in a 1950s-style light blue polka dot dress with red lipstick and nail polish. I'd just come from work, and my hair struggles to hold a style, so I didn't do anything with it. However, for those not minding the queue, hair dressers and barbers were available in Hill Valley.
The replica of the 1955 Hill Valley featured the buildings and businesses that were in the film: Lou's Diner, Roy's Records, Texaco, the cinema, etc. There was also a High School, complete with American-style lockers and an "Enchantment Under the Sea" school dance. The cinema was also showing the film advertised. Another area, hidden between two of the buildings, contained a bar and game room dedicated to the 1980s.
Upon entering, we walked through Peabody's Farm, through the housing area, and to the village. McFly's, Doc Brown's, and Tannen's houses were on show, and you could walk inside them. Some of the actors and actresses were around to interact with the visitors and each other. The large billboard for the housing estate Lyon Estates was also in this area, and there was a queue to get photographs with it. The school bus came here and picked up "students". (Upon registering for tickets, each visitor received a job and an identification. My name became Sandra Rogers and I was a student for the day.)
We headed for Lou's Diner to get a bite to eat before large queues. I ordered a cocktail and shared some fries. Lou was also hanging around, and later I saw him with Goldie Wilson. Goldie was sweeping the pavement, and the mayor Red Thomas came around and started to speak to people. Unfortunately, photographs of these (or of Doc Brown) did not come out at all.
Some people, like my partner, simply marked out a spot on the fake grass and waited for the film to begin. Doing this misses out of the whole experience as the actors wandered around Hill Valley and created their own stories. I have seen the film so many times, so I wanted to experience the experience. I was on my own then and walked around to see what was going on and watched some of the interactions.
I did meet George McFly, carrying binoculars. He was apparently "bird-watching". I got him to meet my partner. This is the only actor photograph that I photographed that turned out alright.
They also had a fair with some food stands, a merry-go-round and a Ferris Wheel. I got a slice of apple pie with vanilla ice cream a bit later in the evening.
The actors and actresses spoke with American accents, and most of them were fairly good. They also used American phrases and pronounciations. Example: Zebra (as in zebra crossing) is pronounced with a long 'e' in American English and a short 'e' in standard British English, though Americans do not call it a "zebra crossing" and prefer "crosswalk", though this may change depending on the region of America.
I asked where I could throw my trash away, and one of the actresses said that there are "trash cans" all around the area. In British English, the word "bin" is preferred. And yes, the trash cans were the metal American style with lids.
The word "dollars" was used quite a lot instead of pounds, but some of the sellers did say "pounds" instead. Old cars drove around the square, and actors and actresses made the visitors feel immersed into the experience. They also hosted a parade with some of the visitors.
Finally, it came time for the film. Everyone went to the artificial lawn area that was the town square, with the clock tower ahead of us. I will not spoil it too much, but the actors and actresses acted out parts of the film as it was being shown. The cars, such as the DeLorean, even made an appearance. Some stunt work was also done.
This was a fun evening. I wish we could have done and seen more as the time just went so quickly. I bought a rosette of the 1955 town fair as a souvenir. We stayed in a hotel for the evening and then went to a well-known department store at Stratford's mall and got some photographs of the replica Hill Valley the next day.
A couple of weeks before our trip to Hill Valley, we visited the pop-up Hill Valley stores on Hackney Road. A frock shop (selling accessories and souvenirs), barber shop, and diner made up the complex of shops, and we ate at the diner. I had American pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and my partner had a burger with a milkshake.
I have wanted to go to a Secret Cinema event for so long, and we were lucky to get tickets as Secret Cinema is always popular and sells out. I recommend it, and the atmosphere was good here.