The Cineroleum


The Cineroleum was a self-initiated project that transformed a petrol station on Clerkenwell Road into a cinema.

© Zander Olsen

The project was an experiment in the potential for the wider re-use of the UK’s 4,000 empty petrol stations.

The Cineroleum was an improvisation on the rich iconography and decadent interiors of the golden age picture palace. Classic elements were re-created for the roadside setting using cheap industrial, reclaimed or donated materials. Flip-up seats were made from scaffolding boards, the foyer was furnished with formica-clad school chairs and tables, and the auditorium was enclosed by a curtain, created by hand-sewing about three kilometres of seam in roofing membrane.

The Cineroleum was visibly handmade, built on site by a team of over a hundred volunteers, learning and experimenting together, aided by instruction manuals written during the prototyping process.

Unlike the out-of-town multiplex, The Cineroleum celebrated the social experience of filmgoing, from the popcorn machine and bar in the old station shop through to the programme of approachable classics.

© Zander Olsen

Separated from the busiest single-lane road in Europe by a curtain, it allowed for both collective escapism and created a public spectacle on the street for passers-by. At the end of the film the curtain rose, pushing the audience from the imaginative world of the film to the everyday theatre of the street.