Review: Secret Sofa – The Grand Budapest Hotel – Star rating depends on your own efforts but 5***** for making staying home so much better! @secretcinema #secretsofa @haagendazsuk @KieranMortell #staycreative #cultureinquarantine

Last Friday I got dressed up, drank champagne, ate ice cream and explored the gloriously odd world of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I did in my living with with 1000s of people from around the world thanks to Secret Sofa.

Secret Sofa is a new branch of the highly acclaimed Secret Cinema.  It is obviously slightly different as you cannot possibly get the same level of interactivity without the incredible amount of work that goes into the standard Secret Cinema experience, but this is all about what you make it and if you put in some effort, it is blooming brilliant.

The premise is this:

Every Tuesday you receive an email telling us what the next film is. You are given some activities and instructions which we can choose to do, or not, it is up to you. You find a place to stream the film and then on Friday night, the community gathers on Facebook. Announcements are made throughout the afternoon/early evening. This week that included a fabulous Spotify playlist to get us in the mood. 15 minutes before you start the film, a member of Secret Sofa immerses you in the world of that film. This week it was the Lobby boy, Henrik. ( Kieran Mortell). He welcomed the guests, told us of the happenings in the hotel, promised to hold any sordid secrets until his death, and taught us to waltz.

Those watching the pre and post show live streams chatted to each other and to Henrik. Many uploaded videos of themselves waltzing. There was also an option to apply to be a baker at Mendl’s (the bakery in the film). We were given instructions on what to bake and asked to upload photos of our creations. Finally, our attire was to be elegant and oozing class – only the best for The Grand Budapest Hotel. The whole thing was just great!

There was a small amount of confusion about the process and this resulted in a few people being, to put it nicely, a bit grumpy. There were suggestions that it was a scam for Haagen Dazs and Secret Cinema to gain access to our data with nothing in return. There were also complaints that it was unfair that people may have to pay for the film rather than be given a free option.  

In my opinion, Haagen Dazs are doing a good thing sponsoring this and keeping Secret Cinema afloat at what I imagine is a very difficult time. The thing I got in return for signing up to this was a fabulous evening and the lovely company of a community of other immersive theatre fans.

This lovely little chap who joined the Facebook community was hoping for a new job as the new Lobby Boy!

Finally, with regards to having to pay for the stream – no one is forcing anyone to pay for it. It is also worth remembering that attendees are not paying a fee to Secret Sofa so there is only so much that they can do to make things free. I know they are also carefully considering which films are most easily accessible for the majority of people.

I had a genuinely brilliant time watching this gloriously odd film with a bunch of glorious people. I joined in with the chats, I listened to the playlist, I drank the suggested tipple and, had I been able to, I would’ve bought the suggested Haagen Dazs ice cream.  During this time, being home alone is hard. I am lucky that I have my partner with me, but, on this occasion, he was busy doing something else. Usually, I would find someone else to go to a show with me but obviously that is not an option right now. But it really didn’t matter. I got to spend an evening chatting with a huge community of other people who also wanted to enjoy being a bit silly, play acting their roles as guests at the hotel just as if we were all in London in a secret location enjoying the whole Secret Cinema experience. It appeared from the photos that many other people were doing this on their own so for that, I think Secret Sofa are doing a great service to all of us who just need some company and a bit of a break from the real world.

I cannot wait to hear what the next film is for this week!

Step by step guide to Secret Sofa

  • the film is announced to those that registered on the Secret Sofa website
  • sign up to the Facebook page where you will find lots more posts and information around the film’s theme
  • if you intend to join in completely, check the dress code, source your drinks as suggested by the Secret Sofa team, grab your Haagen Dazs ice cream and whatever things you need to make or to sort out for the Friday night
  • you find the film either from your own DVD collection, on Netflix, now TV, Sky, YouTube, or wherever else you might stream films

Photos from a previous Secret Cinema Gran Budapest hotel event. You just have to channel all of this into your living room!
  • keep an eye on the Announcements section of the Facebook page. You will find spotify playlists in the theme of the film, or other events happening before the start time of the film
  • there is an intro to the film from a character, via Facebook Live. These are available afterwards on the page’s videos if you missed the whole thing and want to do it another time.
  • at the end of the intro, we are instructed you all click play at which point we all watch the film together at home. 
  • when the film ends, there is a further facebook live broadcast followed by some music. This week it was DJ Caz who played at Secret Cinema’s Stranger things. 

Have a look at Secret Sofa/ Secret Cinema website

Here is the Facebook page

More information can be found in my previous blog

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