This Thursday, January 24, The Village Cinema is putting on its first screening in collaboration with Blackheath Halls. The film? Alexander Payne’s Pinot Noir-praising, Merlot-pounding comedy, Sideways (2005). Those staving off the alcohol this month might want to turn the page now… the copious glasses of wine consumed are described so sensually they’ll leave you craving a glass yourself, writes Holly O’Mahony…

The Golden Globe-winning movie follows depressed and struggling writer Miles and his friend Jack, who go on a vineyard romp together in the Napa Valley, as a final blow-out before Jack gets married. They attend wine tastings, talk at length about their personal lives and ultimately meet two single, attractive, and intelligent women – Maya and Terra – who could prove game-changers for the pair.

The Village Cinema has been set up as a small, not-for-profit charity by four local residents, who run the organisation on a voluntary basis. “Our aspiration is to bring films to a wide range of audiences in Blackheath,” says Lucy Chaple, a trustee of The Village Cinema. The idea was partly inspired by a chance conversation Lucy had with an elderly Blackheath resident, who loved film but had to take the bus in order to get to Greenwich Picturehouse. This, coupled with the notable surge in community cinemas popping up across the country, gave the team the idea to set up a community cinema in Blackheath. By partnering with Blackheath Halls, The Village Cinema team have not only been able to leverage the Halls’ technical equipment, but also their staff, turning the project into a truly community-run affair.

“Sideways is a fun film, which will bring a bit of summer sunshine to what is a rather drab time of the year,” says Lucy. How will a screening of Sideways go down in the month that has, for many people, become known as booze-free ‘Dry January’? “Obviously, we wouldn’t want to tempt anyone away from any New Year’s resolutions they have made,” she says. “It will nearly be the end of the month, though…” she adds, grinning.

If you can’t make the screening this Thursday, there are several more opportunities to catch a screening at Blackheath Halls. The Village Cinema is holding evening screenings once a month until April 2019. “These screenings will test the local interest and financial viability,” explains Lucy, adding that prices have been kept low (£6-£8 per screening) in order to encourage the community to come along. “If the screenings prove successful, we hope very much to continue the evening films, while also introducing daytime screenings,” she adds.

The April screening at Blackheath Halls will be a choice of four films, all of which were selected by Sight & Sound magazine as among the best films of 2018. The community are invited to vote for which of the four films they want to see, either via The Village Cinema Facebook page or specially-designed postcards which will soon be available. It doesn’t get much more democratic than that now, does it?

Sideways is showing at Blackheath Halls, 23 Lee Road, Blackheath, SE3 9RQ. January 24, at 7:30pm. Admission: £8/£6 concessions. www.blackheathhalls.com