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I visited the Icon Cinemas 4 Hills Village on Sunday 14th August 2022 to see the suspense drama “Fall”. As per my photograph of the screens indicator panel, there are actually 11 screens: numbers 1 to 10 plus the “Iconic” screen. This is simply a much larger auditorium; if this was created by knocking two of the original screens into one that would answer the conundrum of 12 screens becoming 11.
On a visit to Tucumcari on Saturday 13th August 2022 I was fortunate to be able to meet current co-owner, Christy Dominguez, at the Odeon. She told me that she and her husband, Robert Lopez, a local farmer, had acquired the Odeon in March 2013 from Ramon Martinez. It was open at that time, but they closed it in September 2013 for refurbishment and the installation of a digital projector and a Dolby 7.1 sound system. The Odeon re-opened in January 2014 with children’s favourite “Frozen”.
Sadly, the Odeon was then forced to close on 15th March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The opportunity is being taken to carry out a further, much more extensive, refurbishment, and it is hoped that the Odeon might re-open as early as September 2022. This will be stalls-only (220 seats); it is unclear whether the circle seating will be brought back into use.
Christy also informed me that the Odeon had been built by the owner of the nearby Princess Theatre, a much grander venue which presented vaudeville in addition to the films, as a fairly ‘basic’ ‘films only’ theatre “for the common man”!
Further to Bill Eichelberger’s comment, I have posted two photographs of the building at 315 Central Avenue. However, it is not clear whether this housed the Mission Theatre, or whether it is a new build.
On a visit to Albuquerque there was no sign of the State theatre building. The block which includes 215 Central Avenue is now a parking lot, so the assumption is that the State has been demolished.
On a visit to Albuquerque, the manager of the former Sunshine theatre maintained that the next door building which housed the Rio theatre has been demolished, and the current building on that site, which includes the Sushi King restaurant, is a new build. As can be seen from my photograph, this certainly appears to be the case.
I visited the Southsea Cinema & Arts Centre on Sunday 19th June 2022 for a screening of Pedro Almodovar’s drama “Parallel Mothers”.
This is a fascinating venue. The ground floor area is all one space, with the auditorium on the right, in an area that is curtained-off for the film shows. There is a small café seating area at the front, and the box office and concession counter are to the left.
The stated seating capacity of 40 is something of a nominal number. For the show I attended there were four rows of four free-standing chairs with a large number of bean bags and cushions in front of those chairs. This produced a real ‘film society’ atmosphere, with many members of the audience lounging on the bean bags and cushions!
Projection is from DVD/Blu-ray (mostly the latter) so films only available in these formats can usually be screened. However, links have been established with a number of streaming services and, indeed, “Parallel Mothers” was screened from Amazon Prime.
Judging by my visit, this is a well-run venture which is quickly building up a large, regular clientele. I wish the Southsea Cinema & Arts Centre all the very best.
On Tuesday 10th May 2022 I was fortunate to be able to meet up with Nichola Cooke, of Nudge Community Builders, the new owners (in association with transformation specialists Eat Work Art), for a tour of the former Gaumont/Odeon. As can be seen from my photographs, an immense amount of work is required, but Nudge are contemplating retaining the horizontal sub-division and installing commercial units in the former stalls, while adapting the former circle as an entertainment venue. This should provide much needed regular rental income to sit alongside the more occasional nature of the events upstairs. On the plus side, I gather that the building is basically sound. I wish Nudge well in their bid to not only revitalise the Gaumont/Odeon, but also breathe new life into the Union Street area.
I visited the Cineworld on Tuesday 26th April 2022 to see “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”, starring (and about!) Nicolas Cage. I was given a very warm welcome by the staff, who are rightly proud of this new, vibrant cinema.
As a postscript to the Overview, the LNER Community Stadium (as it is known for sponsorship purposes) hosted its first soccer match on Tuesday 16th February 2021, when (for the record!) York City were beaten 3-1 by Fylde. (The capacity for the stadium is 8,500: perhaps the 8,005 quoted in the Overview is a typo.) The facilities at the leisure complex to the right of the stadium include a swimming pool, sports hall and gym, while the building that houses the Cineworld is also home to Hollywood Bowl and Puttstars mini-golf.
I paid my customary visit to Cinemarsh on Sunday 27th March 2022, for an 11am screening of “The Phantom of the Open”, starring Mark Rylance and Sally Hawkins. I was given a warm welcome by the staff at Marsh Academy’s reception desk, which doubles as the Cinemarsh ticket and concessions counter.
In a nice touch, in the half hour or so before the screening, vintage adverts from the USA (for the record: Crest toothpaste, JB watch bands, Halo shampoo, Hotpoint electrical appliances and Hills Bros coffee!) and a Pink Panther cartoon (“Pink Trumpet”, from 1978) were screened, together with a short promo film about Cinemarsh. Interestingly, that made the direct point that ticket sales often do not cover the distributors' charges, and urged patrons to buy something from the concession counter and/or make a donation. This message was repeated on an A-board near the reception desk.
As a postscript to the Overview of the Living Room Cinema, a press cutting in the Cinema Theatre Association Archive from February 1995 announced a programme of films at Liphook’s Bohunt Community Centre. The inaugural shows were on Saturday 18th February: Walt Disney’s “Peter Pan” in the afternoon and Steven Spielburg’s “Schindler’s List” in the evening.
Initially, while the response from the public was being gauged, screenings were planned on a monthly basis: the next was to be Disney’s “101 Dalmations”, on Saturday 18th March. Regrettably, there are no further cuttings, so it is not known how popular these shows turned out to be and how long this initiative lasted.
Interestingly, the cutting noted that occasional film shows were being presented in Haslemere Hall (in Haslemere) and by Petersfield Town Council in their “village hall” - otherwise, as with the situation leading up to the founding of the Living Room Cinema, the residents of Liphook had to travel further afield for a screening at a ‘regular’ cinema.
When I visited Sturminster Newton, in March 2022, I was fortunate to be able to speak to the British Legion hall caretaker/manager, who kindly showed me around. The obvious candidate for the original ‘Hut’ is the building standing at right angles at the rear of the main hall, which is the earliest part of the current structure. The central section of the hall was a former military building that was brought onto the site after the Second World War, and could well have been nicknamed ‘The Hut’ as the film shows continued until around 1967. The brick building that fronts onto the road is a more recent addition.
Further to the final paragraph in the Overview, I visited the Rex in March 2022. The upper floor of the original town hall building is used by a number of businesses, and there is no obvious indication that any original decoration survives. However, what appears to be the original decorative wooden ceiling can be seen in the section of the pub that occupies the rear part of the building. This can be seen in close-up from a mezzanine floor presumably inserted by Wetherspoon.
In 1984 Cyril Barbier, based in Birmingham, started work on a one-thirtieth scale model of the Paramount as it would have been after the takeover by Odeon. This was a true labour of love, and the painstaking detail involved meant that it was not finished until 2012 - a staggering 28 years later! By March 2022 the model, which measures 8ft by 4ft, was on display at Paul Kirner’s Music Palace at Porth, South Wales, where I was able to view it. It really is exceptional: the seats tip-up and the organ rises from the orchestra pit! I have added some photos here - clearly marking them as being of this model!
In January 2021 a convoy of film production vehicles arrived in Carmarthen and filming started on the feature “Save the Cinema”, the story of the real-life campaign waged by Liz Evans, a hairdresser who also ran a youth opera group at the Lyric, to save the cinema/theatre from closure and demolition in the early 1990s. Samantha Morton portrays the intrepid campaigner, while Jonathan Pryce appears as a fellow film fan who used to work at the cinema, and who helps get the projectors working again for a one-off screening of John Ford’s 1941 classic “How Green Was My Valley”, the success of which demonstrates the townsfolk’s support for the Lyric.
The film also depicts Liz’s efforts to obtain Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park”, when distributor United International Pictures reneged on a promise to provide it. She and the mayor of Carmarthen, Richard Goodridge (played by Harry Potter star Tom Felton) made direct contact with Spielberg’s company in America, which cut through the red tape and enabled the Lyric to show the film on 15th July 1993, the same evening as the star-studded UK premiere in London. (The Lyric screening was supposed to start five minutes after the London premiere, but legend has it that the clocks were altered, and it started at the Lyric one minute before!)
The film is corny but very likeable: its heart is definitely in the right place, though projectionists will smile at the ease with which long-unused projectors are miraculously brought back to life, and the equal ease with which transit cans containing two or three reels of 35mm film are carried as if they contain feather dusters!
“Save the Cinema” was produced by Sky Cinema, and premiered on Sky Premiere (satellite TV) from Friday 14th January 2022. It was also given a limited theatrical release in the UK from that date (including, of course, the Lyric, where it played from 14th to 30th January to ‘sold out’ performances). I saw it at the appropriately-named Premiere in Romford (the former Odeon multiplex - see separate Cinema Treasures entry) on Thursday 20th January.
It is nice to see “Save the Cinema” joining the likes of “The Smallest Show on Earth” (1957), “Cinema Paradiso” (1988) and “The Majestic” (2001) in demonstrating the sheer joy of ‘going to the pictures’.
The shutters had been bolted closed on 11th December. On Tuesday 14th December Ms Redfern was summoned to Swansea Magistrates' Court.
She admitted to District Judge Neale Thomas that she had been in contempt of court and also accepted two counts of failing to comply with the Coronavirus Act 2020. Defence solicitor Jonathan Gwyn Mendus Edwards asked the court to be lenient with his client, but Judge Thomas said it was clear that Ms Redfern had broken the law.
She was given a 28 day prison sentence, suspended for nine months, and a combined fine of £15,000. She also has 56 days to pay court costs of £8,940 and a victim surcharge of £190.
The judge did say that Ms Redfern was of previous good character and had worked hard to establish her business.
Cinema & Co hit the headlines in December 2021 when Swansea Council bolted the shutters after the owner, Anna Redfern, was summoned to court for allegedly defying a previous order to close. The cinema had initially been ordered to close by Swansea Council and Welsh Government officials on 19th November for alleged COVID-19 rule breaches. The venue had said it would not enforce the COVID-19 pass scheme and would “take a stand” against new measures applying to cinemas and similar venues, calling them “discriminatory and unlawful”.
The venue had been issued with a closure order and told to shut for 28 days. But it chose to re-open. Anna Redfern was taken to court on 30th November, where Judge Thomas rejected her appeal to dismiss her case - and ordered the venue to follow COVID-19 regulations, effectively meaning it had to close its doors, as per the council’s original order.
Ms Redfern was also told to pay the council’s legal costs of £5,265. But the day after the court case, Cinema and Co. apparently re-opened and hosted a Christmas film screening for people who had booked a ticket online. In response, Swansea Council confirmed a ‘contempt of court’ application will be made, alleging the business has failed to comply with its recent court order. The shutters were then bolted to the ground to prevent any further attempts to re-open.
Please note that the “second photograph” that I refer to in Overview has been deleted due to possible copyright concerns.
The Nob Hill Theatre is also seen in “The Lineup” (1958), with “An Affair to Remember” and “Twelve Angry Men” advertised on the canopy.
In the Cinema Theatre Association’s November/December 2021 ‘Bulletin’, Terry Hanstock reported that the Cinema was originally owned by Edwin Pearn, a local coal merchant. He had been born in 1888 and died in 1949, after which his widow Susan (presumably the Mrs S. B. Pearn mentioned in the Overview) and their son, Keith, continued to operate the Cinema.
By the time I visited, on Thursday 28th October 2021, the former Premier was being used by the locally-based St. Rocco’s Hospice. Donated items are stored before being sorted and taken out to the hospice’s network of fund-raising shops. By chance, one of the volunteers was delivering some items, and he kindly allowed me to take a look around. Fortunately, even though the building has been largely gutted, the cinema decoration on the ceiling and upper walls is still very evident and has been nicely picked out in gold. The building’s owner allows the hospice to use it on payment of a minimal rental.
The Bijou was founded by Michael Lockwood, a life-long film fan who had been very active in the North West, in particular with the Preston Cine Society. His dream of operating a cinema was finally realised when he acquired the building that eventually became the Bijou. Sadly, however, he passed away in January 2021 so, with the enforced closure during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he hardly saw his cherished project in action.
The Bijou is operated as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company and staffed by a very enthusiastic band of volunteers. They made me very welcome when I visited, on Tuesday 26th October 2021, for a matinee screening of the silent horror classic “Nosferatu” (1921).
Material in the Cinema Theatre Association Archive contradicts the assertion in the Overview (repeated in the book ‘The Cinemas of West Wales’) that the Palace cinema re-opened after the Second World War and then closed around 1960.
A cutting from the ‘Pembroke County & West Wales Guardian’, dated 15th December 1978, reported that plans had been approved for “well-known Pembroke company” L. W. Haggar & Sons (which was running Haggars Cinema in Pembroke - see separate Cinema Treasures entry) to re-open the Palace, which had “closed shortly after the birth of the ‘talkies’ in the 1920s”, as a “cinema and bingo hall”. Which implies that the Palace had not operated as a cinema after the Second World War (supporting this assertion is that it was not listed in the post-war Kinematograph Year Books).
The impetus behind this scheme was to provide the residents of Pembroke Dock with ‘big screen’ entertainment, which they had been denied since the closure of the Grand Cinema - see separate Cinema Treasures entry - in 1974.
It is not known when the Palace Cinema re-opened, but it was certainly showing films by March 1980, as the Archive holds a programme booklet for that month, a ‘joint booklet’ which also provides details of the shows at Haggars Cinema. The Archive holds (intermittent) booklets up to June 1982, and, sadly, the Palace does not appear to have survived much longer, as its final entry in the BFI Film and Television Handbook was in 1983.
The Handbook listed 460 seats. It is not known how many seats there were in the early years, so it is not known whether this was, for example, a circle-only cinema operation, with bingo in the stalls. However, it seems much more likely that bingo - at some stage, if not all the time, operated by Top Ten Bingo - followed the cessation of the film shows.
(Incidentally, the newspaper cutting refers to the Palace Cinema as being on Park Street, as opposed to Queen Street as in this entry. However, Park Street runs at right angles to Queen Street and, while the main cinema entrance does appear to have been on Queen Street, this was very narrow, and there is also access to the side of the auditorium from Park Street.)
The Conway cinema building began life in 1880 as a ladies' swimming pool (the gents' pool was next door, in what was to become the Celtic Cinema - see separate Cinema Treasures entry). At this time the road was called Newfoundland Street, as the buildings were constructed on ‘newly-found’ land. However, the baths became so important that the road was renamed Bath Street. Mixed bathing was allowed after the First World War, when the gents' pool was closed and converted into the Imperial Cinema (later the Celtic). After the Second World War the surviving pool was covered over and the building was converted into the Little Theatre, and became home to the Regency Players. Then, in 1962, David Davies converted it into the Conway Cinema. That closed on or around 28th May 1976, so it didn’t run for very long as a ‘second screen’ to the Commodore.
The Commodore opened on 17th May 1976 with “The Man Who Would be King”, starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine. Having acquired the adjacent Conway Cinema (see separate Cinema Treasures entry), David Davies, owner of the Commodore, had plans drawn up to demolish it and replace it with a second screen for the Commodore, which would seat 350. Unfortunately, he was never able to proceed with this further development.
The Celtic Cinema closed on 24th March 1975 with the Dracula spoof “Vampira”, starring David Niven.