The Empire Strikes Back – Secret Cinema launch

If the launch of the RebelX Stores in Shoreditch last week is anything to go by, Secret Cinema’s latest ventureStar Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – will be of interest even to non-Star Wars fans. The Stores themselves are stocked with quality merchandise, and a late-night taster event, in the form of a nightclub transformed, promised some immersive theatre-style enjoyment over the coming summer.

RebelX Store 2

Last week’s launch was a tale of two halves, the first being a low-key event at the RebelX Stores on Cheshire Street. The shop showcases costumes and props (“equipment and supplies”) for people holding tickets to Secret Cinema’s Star Wars event, with free drinks and otherworldly nibbles floating about, while the basement has transmogrified into a Be Kind Rewind-esque spaceship cockpit, replete with decades-old computer monitors and programs running in the background that seemed to fit what the future might have looked like from the viewpoint of the 1980s.

There were also two offerings that had nothing to do with intergalactic power struggles: excellent, lengthy back-massage services courtesy of Bespoke Massage, and the fabulous stylings of Husna Henna, which soon adorned many a hand, both male and female.

But it was the evening’s second half, at a location kept under wraps for most of the evening, that pointed the way to the kind of thing Secret Cinema ticket-holders might be enjoying this summer. A Hoxton venue has been transformed into a sort of extra-terrestrial nightclub, containing North African-style lounge areas (yes, there are beanbags); a dancefloor with a groovy bar that serves drinks from outer space; and various well-thought-out Star Wars-themed rooms, which, as well as being carefully decked with props by people who seem to know the film’s aesthetic well, also allows for a measure of audience interaction (mostly consisting of nerds scribbling quotes from the movie on Post-it notes and sticking them on the walls).

RebelX Store 1
Some of the “equipment and supplies” on offer at the RebelX Stores

It was an impressive event – the cocktails were imaginative, the actors and actresses playing aliens were fantastically made-up and had actually taken the trouble to quasi-learn strange alien languages, and the whole space was well put-together. Many of those in attendance were further buoyed by the presence of a small Jawa, who ran around squeaking in Jawaese. Photos were prohibited, but this pill was sweetened by us surrendering our phones upon entrance, only to have them immediately returned to us beautifully encased in some sort of fancy aluminium wrapping.

With this level of effort going into creating an experience both immersive and enjoyable, it’s no wonder over 300,000 people have attended Secret Cinema’s events. This summer’s event, given the ardour of so many Star Wars fans, is under pressure to deliver – and from what we’ve seen, it seems like it will.

by Arjun Sajip

Photos courtesy of Laura Little

This event will run until Sunday September 27, 2015. Tickets can be bought here.