The Cineroleum was a self-initiated project that transformed a derelict petrol station on Clerkenwell Road into a hand-built cinema. It aimed to demonstrate the wider potential for re-using the 4,000 empty petrol stations in the UK as new spaces for public use.
Enclosed by an ornate curtain strung from the forecourt roof, The Cineroleum was an improvisation of the decadent interiors that greeted audiences during cinema’s golden age. Classic elements of cinematic iconography were re-imagined for their new roadside setting with cheap, reclaimed or donated materials. Flip-up seats were remade from scaffolding boards, the curtain out of roofing material. Collectively, these motifs were highly designed but evidently handmade, built by over a hundred volunteers through a process of collective learning and trial and error.
The Cineroleum uncovered the social experience of watching the big screen. Separated from the busiest single-lane road in Europe by only the thickness of its curtain, it simultaneously contained a private experience within the auditorium and became a spectacle on the street to passers by. At the end of the film the curtain would rise, ending the audience’s suspension of disbelief and extending the experience within the cinema into the street.