Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Secret Cinema showing of Blade Runner with my good friend Ally Hogg aka @TheRetroHunter. This was yet another incredible immersive experience from the folks at Secret Cinema. I’ve been waiting until the season ended before I wrote about it, so as to keep the secrecy. They’ve released videos of previous events round about now so I’m hoping there will be a video of this one coming out soon.

I’ve previously written about my times attending the Secret Cinema renditions of Back to the Future and also Star Wars. They were both amazing in different ways. I was intrigued to see what they would offer this time for Blade Runner. I wasn’t disappointed. Firstly Ally and myself had to decide what level of ticket we wanted. I’m not sure if the other events in the past had different levels, but this one had a three tier system ranging from about £45 to about £120 (I can’t remember the exact prices). Ally and myself both fancied splashing out and going for the VIP experience at £120. Some people balked at that price ‘to watch a movie’ but this is much more than that and people often pay upwards of £70 for West End shows. This VIP ticket for Secret Cinema adds extra things as part of the cost including food, a couple of drinks, better seats etc. Not only that but we found out that it also offered a much more immersive experience and I’m very glad we splashed out for the VIP option.

Next up was sorting through all the Secret Cinema emails and correspondence. The past few times I’ve almost found this all a bit confusing or a bit much. One time their emails were so ‘immersive’ that I didn’t know they were from Secret Cinema and I put them all into my spam folder and nearly missed out on getting my tickets! This time they got the balance much better. All your information was in one portal online and following a quick survey you got given a character, identity and a dress code. Some were Scavengers, others were Citizens and Ally and I were Detectives. Actually we were meant to be Undercover Detectives but we just went for the main Detective dress code instead as it was easier. Undercover Detectives hiding in plain sight I guess! I got my hands on a HUGE trench coat that I would never ever wear in real life; everyone was recommended to buy a glow up transparent umbrella, so we both got one of those; I wore a shirt and bowtie a bit like some of the characters in the film and I couldn’t find a relevant hat so I wore the goggles that I had worn to the Secret Cinema Star Wars event, on my head, and that seemed to work. And not too crazy an outfit to get on the London Tube wearing. No-one looks at you in London anyway no matter what you wear. Some people don’t like the idea of dressing up but, honestly, if you’re not dressed up (even just slightly) then you stand out like a sore thumb.

The pre-show communications were much more organised and straight forward I found. There was this website as a main hub and everyone had one main login to access your profile page. It even had a handy checklist for what to bring. Here are some of the bits and bobs you get. A nice little faux leather wallet with a cool origami unicorn embossed on it. And your identity papers. My name was Detective Scotty Bradmore. I was pretty happy with that name. You’re meant to take a photo of yourself to put in the wallet, so I tried, and failed, to look cool in mine.

When we got inside the event I felt absolutely at home in my HUGE trench coat. I think the only person I saw in a similar big trench coat was the actor who was playing Deckard, so I was pretty pleased with that. As soon as you arrive you get split up into groups depending on your character identities, which is determined by your tier of ticket. You get passed through various sets of actors who give you briefings about who you are and what your missions are etc. To be honest this bit could have been done better. You couldn’t really hear what they were saying unless you were right next to them, and there were too many people in each group. I didn’t really know what was going on for the first 10mins and just nodded along with everyone else. Until, that is, I got bloody picked on by one of the actors who made a comment about my bowtie. I think we were meant to be undercover detectives at that point and he said my bowtie blew my cover. He quizzed me about something and I quickly tried to make some witty remark about how I couldn’t remember, and perhaps that means I’m a replicant. It kind of went down ok and he thankfully moved on. I certainly did better than when I got accosted by Biff in the Back to the Future Secret Cinema event and I couldn’t think of any witty retort other than nervously laughing. So I’m getting better!

It quickly settled down though and we ended up in the Police station. This was an exclusive area that only the VIP ticket holders were allowed in and included a private VIP bar. Here we got a proper, and audible briefing from Capt Bryant. Not only this but we got a complimentary shot of Johnnie Walker Black Label (in addition to the VIP drinks tokens we would get given later). People were passing the Johnnie Walkers round to everyone and I somehow ended up with two. Result! Then the woman next to me smelled hers and didn’t want it and offered that one to me as well. Result! So I was already pretty well lubricated, and I have to say this helped with me getting more involved with the actors and not holding back. Speaking of which, we were ushered through to the private bar where we could get one of the special cocktails and take stock of our surroundings. I saw a guy in a big trench coat pacing up and down, looking like a man on a mission. My instincts told me that he was an actor playing Deckard, and my triple Johnnie Walker told me to throw caution to the wind and go and talk to him. So I went up to him and said “Are you Deckard?” He nodded, engaged us in conversation, we bullshitted some detective talk and then he called a few of us in the room to gather for a quick briefing. He gave us a mission. I forgot the details but it was something like, go found some dude over there and ask him about X or Y or Z. It felt like we were starting to go on a divergent story path to everyone else and people were getting different missions. My completist mentality was wondering what other people’s missions would be and whether we would miss out on anything (similarly to how I feel when I do Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy books), but I embraced our storyline and Ally and I went on the hunt. We went through various people and clues, all that got us exploring different parts of the venue, which is a clever way to show you everything in the location. There are lots of eateries and bars of course. There was a kind of science lab upstairs like the guy from the film who makes the snakes in his cold lab. There is also a main area which looks like the alleyways in the movie and it even rained indoors every 5 mins or so (hence why they asked you to bring umbrellas). It really did feel like you were in the movie. It was extremely well done. There was even an arcade machine running several games and we chanced upon it when it had Space Invaders running and there was an actor next to it doing running commentary. Ally, who owns his own Space Invaders cab, jumped on and I think got the high score of the night!

There was also a Snake Pit bar which is where our (and I think everyone else’s) clues made us end up at. We had to speak to one of the singers and ask her a question about the Off World colonies. I thought it would be quite hard, if all the other detectives were also wanting the same info from here. We arrived in the Snake Pit bar and saw what a cool place it was. You could just stay there all night and have a great time. It just so happened that the character we had to talk to was on stage singing when we walked in. And she was very good! I’ve looked the actress up since then and found out that she is a proper singer and she obviously must just enjoy acting on the side, because her acting was pretty good too. We got a drink at the bar and then went to the stage to watch her. It was just a small circular stage in the middle of the floor, so we knew she had to go through the crowd at the end. I thought it was unlikely we would get to her in the busy crowd though, but lo and behold she basically came walking right towards us when she came off and I just had to say ‘Excuse me’ as I was walking past. It felt very serendipitous and that was a theme of the night for us. She stopped right away, obviously expecting people to accost her, and patiently answered my questions while I, Ally and about four other detectives who appeared next to us had our little notepads out writing down notes that we were meant to go back to Deckard or Capt Bryant with. She also gave me her autograph which you can see below.

We were hungry now and so we stopped for a bite to eat. This was one of my highlights of the night. We ate noodles sitting at the bar of a noodle kiosk at the side of wet, rainy alleyway just like Harrison Ford does in the film. Very very immersive and very well done.

Serendipity later came into play again when we thought we would be cheeky and go back up to the Police station and see if Captain Bryant had any more Johnnie Walker. When we approached the station we found some non police punters trying to get in (perhaps part of their immersive mission) and they were getting loudly rejected by the police security. We just flashed our VIP Detective badges and they stepped aside and waved us through. Felt like being a proper cop. Sadly Bryant didn’t have any Johnnie Walker left, but we did just get there in time for him to check our detective notes and reward us with Blade Runner status, including a cool stamped document you can see below. I’m sure everyone who has paid for the VIP experience gets awarded the Blade Runner status, but we actually felt a real sense of achievement after doing all our investigative duties.

Not only did we get our promotions but we arrived just as they were about to organise a raid on the Snake Pit club. They were gathering any detectives that were around and were splitting into two groups to approach the club from both entrances. Some people got assigned to a group with an unknown actor character but we were in Deckard and Bryant’s group which was cool. Then came probably the biggest highlight of the night. We all marched downstairs, and about 40 or so detectives all had to go into the Snake Pit flashing our ID badge and yelling “LAPD. Put your hands in the air. This is a raid”. I was loving it. I looked to one side and I had Deckard and Capt Bryan right next to me doing the same, and on my other side Ally was totally getting into it and taking his acting levels beyond even Deckard and Bryant! “LAPD! Put your hands up! PUT THEM UP!”

We basically ushered everyone out and that was their way of cleverly getting everyone into the middle section for the ‘acting finale’ of the night. I had heard online that this bit is good to watch from the upper balcony level, so we rushed upstairs and managed to get an amazing view. Again serendipity took hold as, while they recreated the finale fight and the tears in the rain speech in dramatic style, one of the actresses (basically the Daryl Hannah character) climbed up the set right next to us, jumped over the balcony and basically had to push right past us on her way out. We had a great view of the rest of the action too.

Then everyone filed through to watch the actual movie. Again our VIP status kicks in here as we got great views of the screen, being in the second row from the front. We also got table service but I’m not sure if everyone maybe got that. The film itself was great. You’re obviously completely in the mood for watching the film, after spending about 2-3 hours immersed in the world. It’s always great seeing classics on the big screen, and particularly with a like-minded audience who are all fans of the film. Secret Cinema also include the added extra of shadow-casting, which is where all the afore mentioned actors, such as the Deckard that we had been speaking to at the start, act out some of the scenes, in silence, right next to the screen. It’s pretty cool actually to watch these actors re-enact bits in real life right in front of you.

So in a nutshell it was just a really fantastic night. I know Ally loved it too and thought about going back to it for a second time! I think every time you go you could have a different experience. Even if you were the same character you could speak to different people and have a totally different night. You could even just sit in one of the bars for the whole night and watch all the characters go by. The food is all fantastic too. I really can’t say enough good things about it.

Again our police badges became useful at the end. The police actors were going round shoo-ing people out of the venue, but I just held up my badge and said ‘LAPD’ and the guy freezes and says “Sorry officers. Is there anything you need me to do?” I just said no and to carry on doing his duty. I was kind of getting into this. Roll on the next one.

What film would you like to see Secret Cinema doing? Aliens would be great but I think they might have already done that, I’m not sure.

Check out the video below that Secret Cinema have released showing what the event was like.

Here is another bit of merchandise they included. A cool brochure about Hassan’s replicant creatures.

[banner photo – Camilla Greenwell]