Photo diary: Back to the Future with Secret Cinema

A little trip back in time quite literally, to both earlier this year and 1955 simultaneously, when B and I went to Secret Cinema’s Back to the Future event. That’s right, I’ve finally got the disposable cameras we bought on site developed – as they wouldn’t let you take in technology to keep things authentic. I quite liked that about it, it was genuinely like we were in a little 50s bubble, which is a pretty happy place for me to be (as long as I know I’ll be reunited with the internet later). So the photos are not top quality images, but the grainy quality feels quite fitting somehow anyway.

Taking you now on a rough photo tour of the day… And for context, remember that as part of this event you’re given characters. I was a high school student, B was a wrangler (hence the farm get-up)…

First stop: the diner

At the 50s diner, Back to the Future, Secret Cinema


At the 50s diner, Back to the Future, Secret Cinema
Always thinking of my stomach first, we made a bee-line straight for the diner. I love a burger and a milkshake, which is good as that’s pretty much entirely what they were offering. There were other food places dotted about, but if I’m going back to the 50s I’m going to a diner! While I was there, an actor posing as Goldie started chatting away to me about my skirt and telling me to go over to the school once he’d clocked I was a student – if you look in the second photo you can see him in the background, before he pounced. Yes, I squirmed a lot. This ‘audience participation’ aspect of the event was one I was prepared for, but it’s a lot more personal than you think it’s going to be! Largely it’s avoidable if you want it to be, but not always… e.g. later in the day as we sat down to watch the film, a diner waitress came over and made B carry a love note over to a mechanic at the garage. Did I mention we had to write the note? Cue extreme awkwardness – the phrase “you really rev my engine” did get used.
Walking about the main square
Town hall and main square, Back to the Future Secret Cinema
Shops at the town square, Back to the Future Secret Cinema


Biff's car, Back to the Future Secret Cinema


A flying bike at Back to the Future Secret Cinema


A school lesson, Back to the Future Secret Cinema


Hill Valley High School, Back to the Future Secret Cinema
Vintage cars, Back to the Future Secret Cinema

There were ‘officials’ constantly yelling at us to stay on the sidewalk, which was mostly because there were a handful of classic cars – including one with Biff in (the black one, you can see Biff if you look!) – and a school bus driving about picking people up. Otherwise, they’d recreated a tonne of shops and the high school, which had the Enchantment Under the Sea dance going on in the back. I actually loved just walking about, looking at everyone’s outfits and dipping in and out of what was going on e.g. school lessons, salesmen pitching ‘flying’ bikes (you can see snaps of both above). At one point, we even ran into Doc!

Exploring further

Games at Back to the Future Secret Cinema


50s houses at Back to the Future Secret Cinema


Outside a 50s house at Back to the Future Secret Cinema
There was a whole other bit where they’d set up some little 50s style houses which were very cute, kitted out properly inside. And when we walked back later in the day there was a race going on with people on those skateboard type things you can see in one of the pictures.
Peabody’s Farm
Down on Peabody's Farm at Back to the Future, Secret Cinema


You're a Peabody now... at Back to the Future Secret Cinema
Speaking of audience participation, I previously mentioned the 20 minute (I’m not exaggerating) improv B took part in when he took a pot of jam over to them that was on his character’s list of props to bring. I didn’t get a great photo of this as I was concentrating desperately on not looking like I was staring so they didn’t notice and involve me too, which I think is what most sensible people would have done, surely?! Fortunately there were some actual farm animals I could divert my attention to. When B finally said his goodbyes they stamped a giant red P on his head to mark his participation (to be fair, he did do a pretty enthusiastic attempt at farmer boy) – if you’re wondering what the second photo’s all about (we were too, when we saw it – after we’d finally finished laughing).
Goodbye, Hill Valley!
Town square, Back to the Future Secret Cinema


Hill Valley... A Nice Place To Live
The film was projected onto the town hall (behind us) and everyone parked up on the grass to watch. During key moments of the film, parts were re-enacted with some of the actors who’d been milling about during the day – and it really was incredible how they did that… I won’t tell you how though (although the open door you can see in the ‘screen’ behind us is a clue), as I’ve heard Secret Cinema are bringing this event to Los Angeles next year for the film’s 30th anniversary – I’d definitely recommend if the costume of it all appeals to you. In case anyone’s wondering, I’m not a mega-fan of the film. Β I mean, I like it enough to watch it – but that’s really only one part of a pretty unique day out!
And if you’re never intending to go or don’t mind the surprises being spoilt, Secret Cinema have recently put together a video of the event that sums the magic up better than I ever could!



  1. November 25, 2014 / 1:25 pm

    Aw, these photos are great! I think the grainy quality does give them a certain atmosphere. Looks like a really super event, I would love to go after seeing all of this. I love a bit of audience participation too! x

    • November 26, 2014 / 1:20 pm

      If you love audience participation you should definitely see if you can go to one of these – I'm just hoping they'll do a Great Gatsby one some day… wouldn't that be amazing?!

  2. November 25, 2014 / 2:17 pm

    Your far too harsh on yourself, sweet dear, I think you've summed up and celebrated the fun and merriment of this day marvelously. I'd rather hear your – coming from an online friend, instead of a total stranger – firsthand account anytime.

    It really does look like this was oodles of exciting fun. I hope you guys are able to return time and time again!

    Big hugs & many thanks for your comment (the first so far) on today's Christmas gift guide post,
    β™₯ Jessica

    • November 26, 2014 / 1:20 pm

      Glad you liked my account! I always think most of my visitors probably just look at the pictures πŸ˜‰

  3. November 25, 2014 / 3:02 pm

    This looks like a BLAST!!! I would have loved to have been there and participated. This taking interactive to the next level. I would almost make a trip out to LA for it. My husband would totally be game.

    How did you find out about it?


    • November 26, 2014 / 1:19 pm

      It definitely is taking interactive to the next level! I actually heard via a friend, but I'd suggest (and with my marketing hat on as that's my day job) you sign up to Secret Cinema's mailing list under 'register' here to hear about them:

  4. November 25, 2014 / 7:31 pm

    You get assigned characters? That's so awesome! Although it definitely reminds me of something that someone said to me once about really enthusiastic vintage/rockabilly girls – "It's like they're LARPing their lives." I thought that was funny, mostly because it's kind of true.
    This whole thing sounds like so much fun. They did an amazing job building the town/set/whatever. I'm really impressed by the building with the clock, it looks fantastic. And you look so gorgeous in that first photo of you. It sounds like you had a really fun time, I hope something like this comes to my area.

    • November 26, 2014 / 1:22 pm

      You sure do – my character was a high school student named Janet Loomis! B's was a wrangler named Dennis something or other… And I think that comment is kind of true!

      Honestly, the set was absolutely stunning, I couldn't believe what they'd managed to pull off. If you ever get the chance to go to something like this 100% do!!

  5. November 26, 2014 / 3:26 am

    Looks and sounds like a lot of fun πŸ™‚

  6. December 1, 2014 / 4:54 pm

    Looks like a great event! My husband and I would have really had a ball there as I love 50's theme stuff and Back To The Future is my husband's all time favorite movie! I'll have to look into this coming to LA πŸ˜€ All the audience participation stuff sounds like so much fun! As long as I wouldn't have to try and speak with an accent I'd be all in! πŸ˜€

  7. December 2, 2014 / 9:53 am

    This looks like fun, you must have enjoyed it. I'm loving the athmoshpere. πŸ™‚


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