cinema

A tiny, solar-powered cinema is making its way across Europe, promising patrons an intimate movie-viewing experience and red-carpet treatment.

The Sol Cinema is a mobile, solar-powered movie house run by the U.K.-based charity Undercurrents. The tiny cinema, which seats eight adults or 12 kids comfortably, shows all kinds of films, especially those on environmental issues such as climate change. It’s like Current TV but with ushers.

The micro movie house — originally a two-berth caravan from the 1960s that cost about $100 — took “a [whole] year of head-scratching to be ableto fit everything,” says Undercurrents co-founder Paul O’Connor. And it took an additional four months to actually convert it.

Artist Jo Furlong and volunteers Ami and Beth Marsden completed it in 2009. Renovation costs were minimized through very dedicated dumpster diving and many trips to the local junkyard.

The most expensive components of Sol Cinema are two 120W solar panels ($1,400 each). The panels juice four lithium-ion electric car batteries that were imported from Hong Kong due to their lack of availability in the U.K. And while it takes a full day of sunshine to top off the batteries, the movie house rarely uses a full charge.

During a typical event, they showcase a series of shorts from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and then finish it off with a full-length feature film. The feature is projected on an outdoor screen using a 1,500-lumen projector, which cost $1,600. O’Connor handled the projection and video equipment design and installation.

The mobile movie house is transported by a Volkswagen Eurovan powered by waste vegetable oil. Last year was Sol Cinema’s first season, with bookings throughout Ireland and the U.K. For 2011, Undercurrents is hoping for a full European tour with its sights set on the Cannes Film Festival.

It wouldn’t be the best venue for watching Avatar, but it’s a surefire hit for the follow-up to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Don’t forget the organic, fair-trade popcorn!

Sol Cinema Specs: thesolcinema.org