City Screen marks 20th anniversary with Buena Vista Social Club screening

The Buena Vista Social Club musicians playing in Amsterdam in April 1998

JANUARY 7 2020 will mark 20 years since City Screen, York, opened on its riverside site in Coney Street.

General manager Tony Clarke and associate general manager Cath Sharp have been there since the opening, and to mark the anniversary they have selected Buena Vista Social Club for a special show at 8.30pm that night.

Tony says: “Wim Wenders’ film about ageing Cuban musicians has probably best stood the test of time, and so we’d like to show it again on our 20th anniversary and offer the screening free to Picturehouse members.” Please note, tickets are available to members only in person at the City Screen box office.

The film poster for Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club

The City Screen cinema is partly new-build and partly a conversion of the old office and printworks of The Yorkshire Herald, whose name is still emblazoned across the top of the building. 

Since May 1987, York Film Theatre (YFT) had operated City Screen at Tempest Anderson Hall, Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens. In 1997, however, YFT entered into a ground-breaking public/private partnership with a commercial arts cinema group, coincidentally called City Screen Limited, to create a new art-house cinema in the centre of York. 

In 1998, the new partnership won an Arts Council Lottery Award of £2.37 million, a sum matched by City Screen Ltd, to buy and renovate the Yorkshire Herald newspaper building that had stood derelict since 1989. 

Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara  Portuondo in Buena Vista Social Club

The new City Screen, York, opened for business in January 2000 with a first programme of Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club, Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out The Dead, Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey and Simon Beaufoy and Billie Eltringham’s The Darkest Light.

In Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated documentary, Cuba’s  rich and colourful past comes vividly to life as the Paris, Texas and Wings Of Desire director documents American musician Ry Cooder’s return to Havana.

There Cooder had recorded the Grammy Award-winning Buena Vista Social Club album, still the biggest-selling world music recording of all time, with veteran musicians Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, Eliades Ochoa, Omara  Portuondo and Compay Segundo.

This dream team of players from Cuban music’s golden age introduced the rhythms of Son, Bolero and Danzón to a new audience, making them instant international stars.

Compay Segundo performing with the Buena Vista Social Club musicians

Never a regular band, however, The Buena Vista Social Club had gone their separate ways after that 1997 album, but Cooder’s return brought them together again in 1998 to look back to the halcyon days of Cuba’s music scene, when the rich and famous travelled from all over the world to listen to them.

In the film’s climax, their music comes alive anew as they rehearse for their first – and only – performance in the United States at a sold-out Carnegie Hall in New York

Looking forward to introducing the January 7 screening, Tony says: “”Our wine supplier, Bibendum, has generously provided us with some Prosecco to enable us to give members a free drink on the night to toast City Screen on this anniversary, and we’ll even have our head chef make some birthday cake as well. 

“What’s more, the celebrations will continue throughout 2020 with more special events once the ‘Oscar season’ is over, so keep an eye out for those too.”

Charles Hutchinson

Dogs invited to friendly encounter with Cats at City Screen on December 29

Dame Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy in Cats

CATS and dogs will be in harmony on December 29 when City Screen, York, plays host to a dog-friendly screening of the new musical fantasy film.

“We’re offering dog-lovers the chance to bring their canine friends to the cinema that morning at 11am,” says marketing manager Dave Taylor.

“A dog is not just for Christmas, but it’s Christmas for dogs too, so this is a special treat for dog-owners and their pets. 

“They’ll be issued with a fleece blanket to cover the seat used by the dog or to use as a rug if the dog sits on the floor. During the screening, we’ll provide bowls of water around the screen, and we’ll also leave lighting levels a little higher than usual during the screening and lower the volume of the soundtrack.

“Please be aware that we reduce capacity for such screenings, so there may be fewer tickets than usual. We also have a limit of one dog per adult so that people can keep control of their dog.”

City Screen has arranged dog-friendly screenings in the past. “They’ve been well received by dog-owners and have gone off without incident, though cinema staff undertake a thorough ‘deep-clean’ of the auditorium before the next film is shown,” says Dave.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, one of the most successful stage musicals of all time, has been adapted for the big screen by director Tom Hooper, who directed The Damned United in 2009, The King’s Speech in 2010, Les Misérables in 2012 and The Danish Girl in 2015.

Now he “reimagines the musical for a new generation with spectacular production design, state-of-the-art technology and dance ranging from classical ballet to contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, street dance and tap”.

Released this Friday, its cast of star actors and dancers includes Dame Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy; Idris Elba stars as Macavity, the mystery cat; Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots; Ray Winston, Growltiger; James Corden, Bustopher Jones; Jennifer Hudson, Grizabella; cat lover Taylor Swift, Bombalurina; Jason Derulo,  Rum Tum Tigger, and Sir Ian McKellen, Gus the Theatre Cat.

Oscar winner Hooper wrote the script with Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, based on T.S. Elliot’s whimsical Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats.

Tickets for Cats (U) on December 29 are on sale on 0871 902 5747, at or in person from the City Screen box office. “You’re also welcome without a dog,” says Dave.

Dame Judi to star in City Screen’s Christmas season…and what else is coming?

Dame Judi Dench in Branagh Theatre’s A Winter’s Tale: part of the Christmas season at City Screen, York, showing on December 4 at 7.30pm

CHRISTMAS comes early to City Screen, York, with The CBeebies Christmas Show on November 30 and December 1, straight from the theatre stage for a family-friendly feast of fun.

This year’s pantomime is the CBeebies adaptation of the Hansel And Gretel fairytale, screened at 11am on both days.

Dave Taylor, City Screen’s marketing manager, says: “We’re starting in November, I can sense you thinking, but there are so many Christmas shows to fit in. Something for everyone: the traditional films like Miracle On 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life and the German classic The Singing Ringing Tree.

“We even have a sing-along Dementia-Friendly Screening of the musical White Christmas on December 16. 

“There are the modern favourites like Die Hard, Elf and a Home Alone double bill and, finally, there are Screen Arts recordings of Branagh Theatre: A Winter’s Tale, starring Dame Judi Dench, and Royal Opera House ballets Coppélia and The Nutcracker.”

City Screen’s chef will enter into the Christmas spirit with festive food from the end of November, offering a dozen dishes, some traditional, some vegetarian, one vegan, and one meal for which City Screen will donate £1 from every sale to Picturehouse Cinemas’ chosen charity, Refuge.

“This charity supports women and children against domestic violence, which sadly peaks with the stresses at this time of year,” says Taylor.

Tickets are available for all the Christmas shows at the City Screen box office in Coney Street, on 0871 902 5747 or at Full details of screening dates and times can be found at

Who won the big prize at York’s film festival?

FESTIVAL TRIUMPH: Sasha Rainbow’s Kofi & Lartey wins the Best Of Fest prize

SASHA Rainbow has won the Best Of Fest Award at the 2019 Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York.

More than 400 films competed in the Official Selection for the grand festival prize at the five-day event, which climaxed with Sunday’s awards ceremony at the Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens.

Rainbow’s documentary Kofi & Lartey tells the true story of a man who escaped Agbogbloshie, the electronic waste dump site near the centre of Accra, Ghana’s capital, dubbed one of the most toxic places on Earth. The 20-minute film follows him as he empowers two young boys to do the same. 

New Zealander Rainbow’s film, along with all the category winners, becomes available for consideration for the 2020 BAFTA awards.

Kofi And Lartey was among the films selected by ASFF director Cherie Federico for the Opening Night Ceremony showcase that launched the festival last Wednesday night.

Iain Cunningham was awarded Best Feature for Irene’s Ghost, his BIFA-nominated debut feature documentary account of his search for information about the mother he never knew, as Narrative and Documentary Features returned to the festival for a second year.

Delving into hard-hitting topics, the Drama strand provides the largest part of ASFF’s programme.  Best Drama was awarded to Thomas Vernay for Miss Chazelles, the story of two young rivals.

 Best Thriller went to Madamedirected by Garth Jennings, best known for 2016’s Sing and 2005’s Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.  Norteños, directed by Grandmas, took home the award for Best Comedy; Leszek Mozga won Best Animation for Roadkill; Charby Ibrahim, Best Documentary for the animated Bright Lights – The Perils Of The Pokies, a reflection on the devastating consequences of gambling. 

Tapping into the brand ethos, LEONE’s L’Incredibile, in partnership with Nike, was awarded Best Advertising;  Best Fashion went to Lola’s Manifesto, directed by Gsus Lopez and Cristian Velasco.

Usurping the idea of convention, Best Artists’ Film was presented to Rhea Storr for A Protest, A Celebration, A Mixed Message;  Best Experimental was awarded to Samona Olanipekun for Kindred, a spirited interpretation of life in the 21st Century.

The Golden Age, directed by Eric Minh Cuong Castaing, won Best Dance, while Best Music Video went to Emmanuel Adjei for Shahmaran – Sevdaliza. 

Introducing new digital playgrounds, ASFF welcomed Virtual Reality and Immersive films into the competition for a second year. Best VR & Immersive was awarded to Virtual Viking – The Ambush, directed by Erik Gustavson, who used 106 cameras to capture Norway’s west coast, marking one of the first techniques in scripted VR drama. 

New for 2019, the Hijack Visionary Filmmaker Award recognises directors with exceptional vision and a unique cinematic voice, with the prize going to Ellie Rogers for They Found Her In A Field. 

The Polaris Award celebrates the achievements of filmmakers in the North of England, with sponsorship from Film Hub North and BFI Network, and this year’s award was received by Charlene Jones for Henceforth, an honest and raw project highlighting the grief of three siblings after the loss of their parents. 

Across the five-day run, festival-goers were invited to vote for their favourite film from the Official Selection for the People’s Choice Award, won by Garry Crystal for Down, from the Drama category. This claustrophobic short about two strangers trapped in a lift stars Amanda Donohoe, James Eeles and Paul Barber. 

Chosen by students at the Youth Engagement programme, the Youth Award was given to Lasagne, directed by Hannah Hill.

This year’s festival drew entries from 53 countries and welcomed thousands of visitors, including industry professionals, students, tourists and film enthusiasts, some travelling from as far afield as Canada, Norway, Germany. Australia, Japan and New Zealand.

Entries for the tenth anniversary festival open on December 1, with the 2020 festival dates confirmed for November 4 to 8.