After taking a trip to the Curzon’s free student film festival ‘Meet the World’, guest writer Adam Millward talks student memberships, questionably priced popcorn, and Donnie Darko.

Tucked away in a Canterbury side street is the Curzon Cinema. Curzon is a small chain of movie theatres which offer an alternative to the blockbuster hits shown at the larger multiplexes – but at not-so competitive prices. There must have been a sharp intake of breath at the on-campus Gulbenkian when Curzon began advertising free student memberships.

A student membership will discount ticket prices and offer preview showings of selected films – not to mention access to the ‘Meet the World’ film festival. Meet The World is a free, all-day film event hosted annually by Curzon, featuring independent films and cult classics from across the ages such as The Breakfast Club, Donnie Darko, The Graduate, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and the award winning Moonlight.

Bemused by this admittedly eclectic range of films, I opted to book a ticket for the 9:05pm showing of Donnie Darko, using the membership card I picked up at fresher’s fayre. The registration process was, to my surprise, quick and easy. A simple online sign up with no hidden fees or pesky card details to type in, and my ticket was booked with little hassle. Ticket collection posed no difficulties either, thanks to the friendly faces at the Curzon reception.

Upon entering the main lobby, I was immediately greeted with some kind of sober pub quiz -which no-one seemed to be particularly interested in. Wanting to make the most of a free night out, I tried my hand at the quiz – but my film knowledge largely let me down. The festival seemed to have wound down by the final showing of the day. Talks on independent film, Q&A sessions and live music were available earlier, but the proceedings had slowed by 9pm.

Nonetheless, the buzz of the quiz lent a warm and welcoming atmosphere to the relatively snug lobby. The cinema itself sports a classic-meets-modern aesthetic. The homely chairs and sofas are complimented by rows of bookshelves, adjacent to a well stacked bar and reception area: my next stop.

Previously I had opted against smuggling my own popcorn into the cinema, being an upstanding citizen, but my righteousness proved to be in vain. The £4 fee for a modestly sized bag of sweet and salty popcorn left me feeling rather bitter – or perhaps salty would be a better word, given that the salt largely outweighed the sugar. The corn was disappointingly cold and a little stale, which is aptly reflective of the film I was about to watch.

Still reeling from what can only be described as the gross over-commodification of popcorn, I took my place in the screening room. With comfortable recliner chairs, the Curzon boasts better comfort to the Odeon on the far side of town – and crucially much better visibility, thanks to the modest size of the screening room. The Curzon does play trailers, but thankfully none of those irritating Meerkat adverts, and eventually an eerie short film that set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Donnie Darko is a big, marmite flavoured, thousand-pieced jigsaw puzzle of a movie. People really identify with this film, it is a cult classic, but cult movies tend to be so bad that they’re good. Donnie Darko is not my cup of tea. The dialogue is ear scraping, the special effects badly dated, and the twenty different plot strands hopelessly confused. The film doesn’t know whether it’s a dark comedy or a straight-faced psychological thriller, or indeed a quirky teen love story. A couple of phone screens illuminated the dark climax, as the film frantically tried to tie up all of its loose ends in one fell swoop. The end credits seemed to bring a great sigh of relief; I left the cinema feeling confused, but never once bored.

Free ticket aside, the ‘Meet the World’ film festival felt like a fairly normal cinema experience. Although I missed the majority of the activities, the ‘famous’ film quiz seemed to be a damp squid. This is not to detract from the excellent facilities that the cinema offers; a homely and inviting lobby, a nice selection of food and drinks (if a tad overpriced), and a screen quality that’s second to none. Should you go to next year’s festival? Sure. It’s free, and if angsty teen movies are your thing then there’s nothing to lose. Should you sign up for a free student membership? Absolutely. You’ll never miss the latest smash-hit movie again and pay half the price of a ticket from the Odeon. I’m greatly impressed by Curzon and their student-membership scheme, so long as I always remember to bring my own snacks to the screenings.