How golden oldie Grease turned into cinema's slickest new experience



01:33 GMT, 31 August 2012

A hit: Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in the classic hit film Greece

A hit: Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in the classic hit film Greece

It's one of cinema’s classic musicals — but when Grease returns to the big screen next week, the setting will be anything but traditional.

Forget sitting in the back row of a vast multiplex with a tub of popcorn. The ‘auditorium’ will be a disused London warehouse painstakingly transformed into the film’s Rydell High School, with a glitzy diner, cheerleaders and vintage Fifties cars.

The 3,000 viewers each night are being told to dust off their poodle dresses and perfect their cow-lick quiffs to dress up as the Pink Ladies and T-Birds.

Before the film, actors will wander
around in costume staging impromptu scenes, and the audience will be
given tips on how to get John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s
signature moves down pat, so they can recreate the movie’s famous final
dance scene as it plays out on screen.

to the phenomenon of immersive cinema — pioneered and led by Future
Cinema, which has screened films in railway tunnels and on rooftops
since it began in 2007. The company previously took over Canary Wharf to
host 7,000 fans at a screening of Blade Runner, with neon signs and
flying acrobats.

Its recent four-week run of
Prometheus, in another London warehouse, smashed ticket sales for a
single venue — grossing 720,000 and beating London’s BFI Imax, the UK’s
biggest-earning cinema screen. Now the company is preparing to welcome
9,000 visitors for Grease, across three nights from next Friday.

‘We are blurring the lines between audience and experience,’ explains Fabien Riggall, Future Cinema’s founder. ‘People want a new way to experience film, and immersive cinema means the audience is effectively a part of the movie.

Shaking some moves: The Future Cinema screenings will bring the movie to life

Shaking some moves: The Future Cinema screenings will bring the movie to life

‘We basically build our own cinemas and celebrate a film in the same way a festival would celebrate a band. We bring it to life.’

Future Cinema stages around eight screenings a year, with an almost forensic attention to detail that means each one takes around two months to prepare.

After selecting a venue, a 140-strong team — including projectionists, sound and lighting designers and actors — pulls the project together. Film fans sign up to the Future Cinema website to be sent themed invitations.

This time it is a letter from the ‘Principal of Rydell High’, asking pupils to enrol for the new term. The location is only revealed a few days before the event.

‘As soon as you get an invitation, the story is already beginning,’ says Fabien.

The London shows have been so successful that Fabien plans to take the idea to the U.S. and screen Blow-Up in a Brooklyn photographic studio — which he’ll transform into a Swinging Sixties London pub.

‘We’ve had a great response from abroad,’ he says. ‘People want to be surprised — we want to create a new generation of cinemas.’

 For Grease tickets, visit