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Demolition of the Broadway in May, 1973.
The staff at the ABC Empire were very strict when adhering to the rules about ‘A’ certificate films (children not admitted unless accompanied by an adult). Actually, the oft ignored rule was a guardian or a parent must take you in, someone who knew you and knew what you should and should not be allowed to see. But, for the sake of bums on seats and ticket sales, they would let any man take you in. This led to cinemas like the ABC Empire becoming a boy molester’s paradise for certain men who were that way inclined, As a pre-teen in the late 1950s, like many other boys of my age, I used to stand outside the cinema when the film had an ‘A’ certificate and wait for a man on his way in and ask him: “Will you take me in, mister?” None refused and, if they took a liking to me, they would pay for my ticket, which saved on my pocket money. When we got inside, sometimes, they would go and sit somewhere else and leave me to it, or sit alongside me. Occasionally, one of them would start squeezing my leg above the knee and opening my pants and pushing his hand down inside. I’ve heard of others that this happened to, even as far forward as the 1960s, so it must have been quite commonplace. Yet you’ll find no mention of it anywhere on the Internet, especially in people’s reminiscences of going to the pictures as a child. It wasn’t confined to men who had taken me in, either. Sometimes, if I was sitting on my own in a row of seats, I would be ‘noticed’ by a man and he would come and sit beside me and begin chatting me up. They weren’t young men. They were a lot older, in the 40 to 60 age range I’d say and they were very self confident, as though they were very experienced at doing this, I knew that if my father had gotten to know about this, he would have gone into a violent rage with me about it and stop me going to the pictures for good. I didn’t want that to happen, so I kept quiet about it.
I’ve no idea, curmudgeon, as I don’t live in the London area and yes, regarding the notice stuck to the back of the still, not exactly the kind of information that you’ll find by Googling. It’s something you just drop on through sheer good luck.
Another ancient British premiere for your list. Today (Wednesday, May 29th, 2019), I received from an eBay seller in Glastonbury, Somerset, an 85 years old glossy 8 x 10 publicity still from the 1934 Columbia Picture “NO GREATER GLORY”. Stuck to the reverse of this photo is a piece of typewriter printed paper announcing that the film will open at The Leicester Square Theatre in London on Monday, October 29th, 1934.
Worse than that, we have lost the beauty of projected celluloid film. It’s all digital now, like watching a large, flat television screen attached to wall at one end of a featureless room. I’ve been told that presentation is mostly dreadful, with films in the wrong aspect ratio, with no moveable screen masking, no curtains or coloured lights on the curtains. In short, no showmanship or pride in presentation. It was all very different when I first started in the projection room way back in 1961. And to top all that, cinema projectionist as a job description is now obsolete and us former projectionists have long ago walked off into the CinemaScope sunset.
The Odeon, Southgate, opened on Wednesday, October 16th, 1935, and was situated on the corner of The Bourne and Tudor Way and seated 1,438 (810 in the stalls and 628 in the circle). It closed on Saturday, September 9th, 1972, but was later bought by a independent company and re-opened as the Capitol on Saturday, December 27th, 1975, first only in the stalls, but later, in 1979, the circle was re-opened. The cinema closed for good on Saturday, January 3rd, 1981 and was demolished in 1982. An office block now occuoies the site.
If this is the interior of the Victoria, they would have had to alter the proscenium considerably to accommodate CinemaScope when it was introduced. Dropping the masking down to have an oblong ribbon of picture across the bottom of the screen would surely not have been right for a first run cinema in the centre of New York.
This photo appears to have been taken around February / March, 1963, shortly before demolition. The clues are the patches of snow that can still be seen on the roof and the pavement following the severe winter of late 1962 / early 1963. I still have the old 35mm film splicer that I picked up out of the rubble there when it was being demolished.
During the time it was open as a cinema from 1912 to 1946, it had quite a few names, including the Moorlands; Palace; Imperial; Super and Globe. The Evening Sentinel newspaper reported on Monday, November 11th, 1929, when it was known as the Super, that the Managing Director of the cinema, one Mr William Hitchen, of Kilnwick, Denby Lane, Heaton Chapel, Stockport, who was also the Managing Director of three other cinemas in Burslem, was convicted and fined £5 (about £150 in today’s money) of allowing his under manager, Mr Sam Ellis and his manager, Clarence Green, to allow their projectionist to leave a boy aged under 16 alone in the projection room while he went elsewhere for a few minutes, effectively leaving the boy in charge of the projectors during the show. The projectionist, who wasn’t named, was sacked over the affair. Under 16 could have meant any age, even a boy of 12 or 10. But if he had been, say, 15, and was still alive today, he’d be 104 by now.
Jupiter Street was also the base for The Potteries Transport and Cinema Supply Company, which, with its fleet of navy blue Thames Trader lorries, delivered films picked up at the film companies in Birmingham to 68 cinemas across South Cheshire and North Staffordshire, as well as picking the films up after the last run and taking them back to Birmingham. When I started work as a projectionist in 1962, this was still a huge undertaking. But gradually, the cinemas closed one after the other and the company no longer had the work to keep the company viable. By the late 1970s, they appear to have gone and were replaced by a white transit van belonging to the Film Transport Service, who delivered films to the by then very small number of cinemas that were still open. Only three or four by that time out of some 35 that once flourished across the area.
The front and interior of the cinema was also filmed for the Children’s Film Foundation feature “Raising The Roof”, filmed in Eastman Colour in 1971, shortly before it closed down.
I have a press photo of child star Ian MacLaine being presented to HRH Princess Margaret at the royal premiere of the Columbia Pictures release “The Boy and The Bridge” on July 22nd, 1959 at the Curzon. Was this the same Curzon that is featured on this page?
If BORN FREE was the last film shown, then the last four programmes on this programme card can’t have been shown.
Added to photos, two pages from the Plaza programme booklet for August, 1963.
Added to photos, two pages from the Alhambra programme booklet for September, 1962.
Two pages from the Alhambra programme booklet for September, 1962.
Scan of the March, 1958, programme card added to photos.
The Chief Projectionist at the Roxy when it closed on Saturday, November 23rd,1957, was Jimmy Stockton and he had already applied to become chief at Focus, Longton, Stoke on Trent, the job to start on Monday, November 25th. The odd thing was that the last film that Jimmy ran at the Roxy was the X certificate horror opus “The Creature Walks Among Us”, which played a week at the Roxy and which Jimmy would run again for a week at the Focus, commencing on Monday, December 2nd, 1957. It seems that the creature followed him from the Roxy to the Focus and that it may well have been the same copy of the film on both occasions.
A COUPLE OF ANECDOTES ABOUT MY TIME AT THE PLAZA.
I remember when we were halfway through showing ‘Spartacus’ on the last run on a Saturday night in July, 1963, the navy blue Thames Trader lorry of The Potteries Transport and Cinema Supply Company arrived early at about 9 pm when there was still over an hour of the film left to run. The driver parked up his lorry and went inside to see the last part of the film. Eight reels had already been run and packed off into an unusually large eight reel transit case and I thought I would do the driver a favour by taking the case down the steps and putting it on the back of the wagon. Well, I dragged it downstairs, one step at a time and eventually reached the car park and dragged it an inch at a time towards the wagon. I dropped the side gate of the wagon and, puffing, panting and straining and using all my strength, tried in vain to lift it onto the wagon. Just then, there was a shout from the open window of the manager’s office. “OI!”, shouted Benny Norcott, “PUT THAT DOWN! YOU’RE AN OPERATOR, NOT A TRANSPORT DRIVER! IT’S HIS JOB TO LOAD THAT ON THE WAGON, NOT YOURS. IF YOU INJURED YOURSELF, YOU COULDN’T CLAIM A DAMN THING!” I dropped the case on the ground and it landed with such force that it made a three inch dent in the asphalt of the car park and I never did anything that daft again.
I remember back in 1968 that we were showing the X certificate film ‘Witchfinder General‘ and, ten minutes before I was due to start the film I was standing by the pay box with the manager, Benny Norcott, when this young lad came in. “You’re not coming in to see this!”, Benny told him. “Well, I’m over 16”, said the boy. “You haven’t seen 13, let alone 16”, Benny told him. “Well, they let me in to see it at the ABC, Hanley”, said the boy. “Well, you’re not seeing at the Plaza, Fenton!”, said Benny. “Now get!” and the boy got!
Click on Photos to see a photo I took of the Plaza in August, 1971.
Here is a photo I took of the Plaza, Fenton, way back in August, 1971. I was working there at the time as a projectionist. This image was scanned from an original colour negative which is slightly fading after 45 years.
I heard a completely different story of the origins of CinemaScope, Mike. It began in the First World War when a French inventor, Professor Henri Chretien, developed a special anamorphic lens that optically squeezed a wide angle view of the outside terrain when viewed through the narrow periscope of a tank. Later on, in 1930, Chretien developed his Hypergonar lens, as he called it, for use on movie cameras and made a demonstration film with it. But the film industry, having just spent a fortune on installing talking pictures, were not interested in spending even more money on Chretien’s wide screen system during the Depression. So Anamorphoscope, as Chretien dubbed it, was put on the shelf until the 1940s when J. Arthur Rank took up an option on it but never used it.
In 1952, Rank’s option on it lapsed and Spyros P. Skouras, president of 20th Century-Fox, went over to Paris with his technical development man, Earl Sponable, to see Chretien and be given a demonstration of Anamorphoscope. They were impressed enough to buy the rights to the system off him and returned to Hollywood with the only three anamorphic lenses that Chretien had, and made a demonstration film for Darryl F. Zanuck, vice president at Fox. Years later, he recalled: “I went for it! It was the God-damnist thing! Today, it would look like nothing!” Gradually, the technical department at Fox developed Chretien’s system into CinemaScope and, with only three lenses, they engaged the Bausch and Lomb company to make more lenses based on Chretien’s design.
At that time, early 1953, THE ROBE had been shooting in the standard 4 x 3 format for a number of weeks and Zanuck took the biggest gamble of his career. He stopped production on THE ROBE and restarted it all over again in CinemaScope, although hedging his bets by making a separate 4 x 3 version in case CinemaScope didn’t take off. But it took off like a bird. It was a Fox employee that thought of calling the new system CinemaScope and the name was taken up by Skouras and Zanuck, until someone informed them that name was already copyrighted by a film store in Los Angeles. So Fox offered the owner $50,000 for the name. All the store owner had to do was to sell them the store’s name and rename his store. The store owner sold them the rights to to the name CinemaScope and the rest, as they say, is history. For creating the process, Chretien received a 1953 Academy Award at the 1954 Oscars ceremony.
I remember my father taking me here on a number of occasions and one film I particularly remember seeing here was PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE, an MGM Technicolor historical epic starring Spencer Tracy and Gene Tierney. That was in September, 1953, when I was 6 and a half.
Going to the Essoldo marked my introduction to cinemagoing. I was taken here by my mother and Godmother on my fourth birthday in April, 1951, to see the Cecil B. De Mille Technicolor epic SAMSON AND DELILAH. I can still see Victor Mature pushing apart the stone pillars that supported the Temple of Dagon and quite literally bringing the house down. I also remember I kept turning around in my seat and looking at the dancing beam of blue-ish light that came from way up there and seemed to have something to do with what was going on on the screen, never dreaming at that time that one day, I, too, would become a projectionist…although not at the Essoldo, Stockport.
CinemaScope was installed at the ABC Capitol in January, 1955 and their first presentation in the revolutionary new system was KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS, which began a six day run there on Monday, January 17th. At the same time, the other ABC cinemas in the area, the Empire, Longton; the Majestic, Stoke and the Savoy, Newcastle under Lyme, ran a ‘flat’ non anamorphic Academy Ratio version of the film, which had been filmed separately for showing in cinemas that had not yet been equipped for CinemaScope presentations. Filming of these separate non anamorphic versions of CinemaScope films continued until late 1956, by which time it was found that almost all cinemas had been equipped to screen films in CinemaScope and the filming of secondary versions was deemed no longer necessary.