Has Secret Cinema now lost the plot with its exclusionary and pricey costume policies?

This was not the review that Smoke Screen expected to write, returning from the preview night of the new run of Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later. In keeping with the previous  ‘presents’ instalments of this pricey but cash-generating strand of the Secret franchise, this particular strand advertises the film in advance, making the secret moniker a bit redundant, but promises guests an immersive, intense experience for the high entry price (over £55 when you include booking fee). Past Secret Cinemas and Secret Cinema Presents have featured costumes as a key part of the experience, with the site’s cryptic emails offering clues on how to deck yourself out to match the world of the film being shown, with the option of buying costumes on site or beforehand. Except with 28 Days Later, Secret Cinema seem to have crossed a line and now made buying their costumes on site, if yours are judged not up to scratch, mandatory (assuming you haven’t ordered one before).

At least, barring a gigantic misunderstanding, that was the experience of Smoke Screen and friends when approaching the second entry gate at the 28 Days Later location. Based on the previous Secret Cinema Presents that the Smoke has been to (see reviews of the Back to the Future and Empire Strikes Back events), where costume policing was non existent and people seemingly free to experiment, Smoke Screen arrived with friends with no costume apart from the recommended loose/cheap clothing. We put on some surgical facemasks to blend in with the crowds who were wearing surgical scrubs. Previous emails sent out once tickets had been purchased, which directed guests to the “NSH” website set up as an in-world experience site, had listed out the ‘required’ costuming, ranging from £15-20 for a kit (no purchase of single items allowed) but given the easygoing costuming policies on previous events, we decided this was not going to be mandatory. At that price, for a one-shot use (unless you are really into hospital role plays) £15 was not chicken feed. Yet ushers at the site refused us entry unless we bought their costumes. On principle, we walked away.

Secret Cinema has been under the spotlight before: its high prices (up to £75 for Empire Strikes Back) have led to musings about elitism and greed. Their Back to the Future event started late, disrupting the travel and holiday plans of those guests who had made complex plans to attend. Questions have been raised about intern pay too. But something seems to have now also changed in regards to entry policy that contradicts a previous and more helpful attitude – this writer has seen costumes being handed out and collected as part of the ticket price on previous events (The Prometheus event for one, see reviewed here), so it is not unheard of for Secret Cinema to decide your high ticket price is enough to cover you for the basics if you don’t have them.

What has changed since then? Has the cost of putting on these increasingly ambitious events now reached a point where ticket prices and already high concessions revenue is not enough? Is it greed? Or was there a miscommunication in how staff should work entry policies? Either way, something has ‘infected’ the thinking of Secret Cinema somewhere along the line. They should hope its sorted out within 28 Days and NOT later, as thousands of ticket holders are due to arrive over that time, and each has a social media account to vent on.

Also, note here below the T&Cs on the ticket buying page of the Secret Cinema 28 Days Later site. If you can spot the section where it warns mandatory costume policy is now in force, do get in touch!

Has Secret Cinema now lost the plot with its exclusionary and pricey costume policies?
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