battersea power station
Q&A with lisa burdge
CO-FOUNDER OF ARCHLIGHT CINEMA
Tell us more about how you started your business?
Archlight is the sister cinema to the Olympic Studios cinema in Barnes. Olympic was our first foray into cinemas and was created to save an iconic building and former fabled recording studio. Olympic’s success led to conversations with the team at Battersea Power Station about creating a unique cinema offering in another distinctive space; three railway arches in Circus West Village, the first chapter in the restoration of the Power Station. We were subsequently asked by Selfridges to create a permanent three screen cinema in their department store on Oxford Street, which we opened in November 2019.
How did you get to where you are now in your career?
I have always worked in the film industry, in roles such as Head of Marketing for Film Four and Fox Searchlight. I have been lucky to work on a wide range of both independent and mainstream films, across international sales and domestic distribution. So, an understanding of the film industry made opening a cinema a natural transition.
What do you love most about your job?
Film has a wonderful ability to appeal to broad range of audiences and emote a wide range of feelings. It has universal appeal. Watching people enjoy a visit to one of our cinemas - from five-year-old ‘Elsas’ watching Frozen to ninety-five-year-old ‘cinefiles’ watching the latest award winner - it’s always such a pleasure to see the enjoyment that a trip to the cinema can bring.
How long have you been at Battersea Power Station? What do you like about it?
We opened Archlight Cinema in Circus West Village, at the foot of Battersea Power Station, in March 2019. Being amongst such a variety of independent and design-led shops, fitness and wellness facilities, bars, cafés and restaurants in a new destination for London is very exciting. Our neighbours are really friendly, which adds to the village atmosphere of this riverside neighbourhood. Battersea Power Station has worked hard to curate an eclectic range of businesses that complement one another, and this translates into an ever-evolving area that has something for everyone at all times of the day. I am always excited to see who is moving in next!
What are your secrets to success?
There are no secrets, nor any grand plan. We are a little obsessed about quality and set out simply to try and ensure that our cinemas are the best place to watch a film. We have long since believed that sound is an overlooked aspect of cinema. Possibly, if there is a ‘secret’, then sound may be a contributing factor.
Our first cinema, housed in the eponymous Olympic Studios building had an incredible sonic legacy, and perhaps it’s no co-incidence that audio is a priority when designing our cinemas and all our sites employ Dolby Atmos 3-D surround systems. Legendary Olympic Studios music Producer and Engineer, Chris Kimsey has been ‘our ears’ since day one creating state-of-the-art quality and clarity of sound across all our cinemas that do justice to Olympic’s auditory heritage.
With its unique location under the railway arches beneath the main train lines serving London Victoria, opening Archlight at Battersea Power Station was a big challenge from a sound perspective. We first had to work out how to keep the train noise out before bringing the cinema audio in. With advice from architects, engineers and an acoustic consultancy, we now offer a unique space and cinematic experience, which has been recently recognised by industry experts for its sound quality.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be?
I was going to answer ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ but it’s the small stuff that makes all the difference - the details. People tell us that they won’t see a film anywhere else than one of our sites, but often can’t articulate why. It’s the stuff that often goes unnoticed that can make the difference between a good and a great cinematic experience.
Alongside the sound and picture quality, it’s stuff like the cinema seats that we wanted to not only look good but also remain super-comfortable even after a three-hour monologue (we found them in Norway). Each seat has its own cocktail table, made bespoke to hold a bottle of wine, snacks and popcorn. The space in front of your seat is generous enough to ensure that you don’t have to move should somebody need the loo. We often remove seats because the sight lines are not quite right. We make our popcorn off site so its smell doesn’t linger, and source ‘rustle-free’ packaging and ‘quiet’ snacks as much as we can. Our front rows all have footstools, so they are never the ‘cheap seats’. Every screen has curtains, to enhance the romance and anticipation of the unveiling of the theatrical 'big screen'. All our sites have a box office, staffed by film buffs, so you can always speak to somebody about what’s on. Gary, our film-fanatical booker ensures that all types of audiences are catered for - both mainstream and seriously arthouse. If you book online, there is no booking fee, nor ‘hidden costs’. It’s the small stuff that we sweat about that we hope makes it a great cinematic experience.
Can you briefly describe your daily routine/habits?
No two days are ever the same. We recently opened a three-screen cinema and bar in Selfridges department store in Central London and are still making tweaks to our food and beverage offering and interior spaces. Olympic has three screens, 100 seat cafe and dining room, and a member’s bar with all day dining served by a busy kitchen. Alongside a varied screening programme, we stage monthly member events, comedy nights and live music nights alongside private functions. Between the three sites, there is always something interesting to do.
What's your favourite lunch?
Something boringly healthy.
How do you wind down in the evening?
I’m not very good at winding down to be honest. The nature of cinemas is that they are open late, so the nine to five doesn’t really work.
What's your favourite part of your work environment?
I’m very fortunate that I love all the parts of what I do.
What makes Battersea Power Station a good place to be?
Its riverside location is amazing for a start. Battersea Power Station is an iconic landmark and the plans for the new development are awe inspiring. It’s so exciting to see the area develop and grow into a new neighbourhood for the capital. We always look for unique locations when opening a new cinema and to be a part of the transformation of Battersea Power Station and surrounding area was an opportunity we didn’t want to miss. The carefully curated businesses within Circus West Village, which is now home to over 1,000 people and has welcomed over three million visitors in the past 12 months thanks to an exciting events programme, also makes it a great place to live, work, and play.