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Further to my ‘Overview’ comments, David Dearle has recently found, amongst his late mother’s personal effects, some letters that he wrote home from Christmas Island in 1959.
In particular, in this letter dated Friday 25th September (not long before he left that deployment in November 1959), he says “I saw the film "Tiger Bay” [J. Lee Thompson/1959] last night and it’s one of the best I’ve seen on the Island. The leading part is taken by a very smart girl of about 12 [who, of course, David now knows was Hayley Mills]. I don’t know whether I told you but I go to the pictures on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday every week…in fact to every film that comes here! I’ve seen films that I wouldn’t dream of seeing if I was at home, everything from Westerns to Horror. We get them about six weeks after [his home town] Southend [in Essex] because by the time I get the ‘Southend Standard’, the films advertised are on here. Mind you we get a lot of old ones thrown in, like “The Sad Sack” [George Marshall/1957] which I saw years ago. Another annoying thing is that we invariably get colour films in black and white and, in a musical, that can ruin the whole impression of the picture."
My thanks to David for sharing this fascinating insight into the films on offer at the Astra. (Judging by his comment about colour films being screened in BW, presumably the Astra used 16mm projection, where the BW versions were much cheaper than the colour originals.)
In June 2011, Cineworld opened “The Screening Rooms”, a three-screen luxury cinema, alongside their existing multiplex. See separate entry for full details.
In December 2014 – see my photos – the building remains boarded up.
Despite the extensive damage to the auditorium, and its subsequent demolition, in December 2014 the street frontage remained, albeit (not surprisingly) in very poor condition. See my photos.
In December 2014 (see my photos) the front of the building was still boarded up. However, there was no sale board, and a gym occupies at least part of the building, with its entrance round the side. According to posters still on display by the former entrance, bingo ceased on Tuesday 22 April. This could have been 2003 or, perhaps more likely, 2008.
This brand new multiplex – the first to be constructed by the Empire circuit (which has hitherto been built up from existing cinemas that had to be divested, following circuit takeovers, under competition rules) – is situated in the basement of a high-rise development called The Scene at Cleveland Place, which also provides apartments, retail and restaurant spaces. A small entrance hall leads to steps down to the basement foyer and concession area.
The capacities of the nine screens are: 1: IMPACT large format screen, with 3D capability and 170 seats in total, including a separate VIP seating area; 2: 54 seats; 3: 101 seats (3D); 4: 101 seats (3D); 5: 85 seats; 6: 79 seats; 7: 101 seats (3D); 8: 96 seats and 9: 309 seats in total (including VIP seating area and 3D).
In a nice touch, there are two stand-alone cabinets on the street outside which contain film information posters.
In December 2014 (see my two photographs) the restaurant had been nicely renamed “Picture House”. I visited on a Monday, and unfortunately it was not open. Hopefully it is open on other days of the week.
For the record, Screen 1 (downstairs) seats 66, while Screens 2 and 3 (upstairs) seat 88 and 66 respectively. The cinema is described in Curzon publicity as “bijoux boutique”, and that’s about right! All three screens are very comfortable and well equipped. However, ‘shoe-horning’ three screens into such a relatively small space was always going to be difficult, and the auditoriums do feel very cramped. I was fortunate that the film I saw – “The Imitation Game” – was in the largest screen and there were only a few other patrons for the early afternoon show. However, a larger attendance might well have led to problems with sight-lines – and sitting on the front row would, for me, be far too close.
The Garry can also be seen several times in the horror film “Silent Night” (2012).
On a visit in September 2014 I was delighted to see the former cinema all spruced up and open as a retail unit.
On a visit in September 2014 I was delighted to see that the frontage had been tidied up and painted to resemble the cinema as shown in an archive photograph helpfully displayed together with other heritage information (yes, the ‘windows’ are merely painted on!).
That information confirms this was the Palladium. It opened in 1937 and closed in May 1969, the final film being “Planet of the Apes”, starring Charlton Heston.
During a visit in September 2014 I was kindly given a copy of the opening programme, starting 28 July 1937. (See scan.) The building is referred to as “The Cinema”, although the 1940 Kine Year Book has it listed as “Picture House”.
By September 2014 (see my photograph) the building had been closed and boarded up, and all signage had been removed.
The Orchard Gallery (and Cinema) was closed when i visited in September 2014.
By September 2014 – see my photograph – the cinema had seven screens. According to its website, the largest (“Studio 1”) has 305 seats, while the smallest (“Screen 7”) has 145. All have Dolby sound systems.
On a visit in September 2014, by which time the cinema had been re-branded Odyssey, I attempted to clarify the ownership situation. According to the manager it has always been owned by Village Cinemas, and was only leased to Vue, then Storm. It is now operated directly by Village Cinemas. (The licence is in the name of Village-Theatres 3 Ltd). This is despite news reports in May 2006 stating that Storm Cinemas had bought the multiplex outright for €7m, but supported by news reports in February 2010 that Patrick O'Sullivan, owner of Storm Cinemas, was trying to get his lease annulled because the previous operator had failed to disclose loud music and vibrations from a nearby bar and nightclub that had led to complaints from cinemagoers! The case was decided against him, the judge remarking that Mr O'Sullivan was using this issue as a ploy to get out of his contract. So it seems clear that Storm never owned the cinema, which is now operated directly by Village Cinemas. (In April 2008 Entertainment Enterprises Group and Odeon had acquired the other Storm cinemas, all situated in Ireland.)
As can be seen from my photographs, the former entrance down the side alley has been completely blocked off, and the entrance is now on University Square. Presumably this was done during a major refurbishment that took place in 2003. Unfortunately, the powers that be will not allow poster boards or other advertising by the new entrance, leaving a rather nondescript doorway! By way of some small compensation, the poster cases at the entrance to the side alley (round the corner, off College Street) are still utilised, although only regulars will be aware of them!
As befits its location, this is an extremely luxurious cinema. And the entrance canopy is especially imaginative and attractive. However, it might only be temporary. The staff told me that it will run for at least six or seven months, after which it will be reviewed. And, even if successful, it might close if Selfridge’s require the space for other functions or exhibitions.
On a visit to Dublin in August 2014 I noted that the building is shuttered and apparently closed. See my photograph.
According to the ‘Islington Tribune’ (Friday 22 November 2013), Oscars had its licence revoked the preceding Monday due to breaches of licence conditions. These were unspecified, this cinema being briefly referred to in an article primarily about an adjacent sex cinema, the Abcat, which also had its licence revoked. (See the entry for the Abcat for further details.) The management at Oscars had said they would appeal. However, in August 2014, when I took my photographs, the cinema was still closed, with all signage removed.
According to an article in the ‘Islington Tribune’ (Friday 22 November 2013) the Abcat had its licence revoked the preceding Monday following a series of breaches of its conditions. Trading Standards officers posing as customers had witnessed “obscene and disorderly behaviour” inside the cinema, the cinema was appearing to operate without membership rules and a sexually explicit film which had no certificate was offered for sale to the officers. Furthermore, the management had been ordered to pay £1,094 in fines and costs at Highbury Magistrates' Court only the previous month after pleading guilty to licence breaches, and a police statement said the management had “shown a total disregard for the conditions of the licence, despite warnings”. Comedy writer and film historian (and local resident) David McGillivray (author of “Doing Rude Things”, a profile of the UK’s sex film industry) spoke in favour of the cinema at the hearing. Management said they would appeal, but in August 2014, when my photographs were taken, the premises were shuttered and the signage had been removed.
The undersides of Screen 1 and 2 are just visible.
In late 2013 it was announced that two further screens were to be added, and the area in front of the cinema would be fully pedestrianised. However, by August 2014, neither of these schemes had taken place.
See my photo taken in August 2014. The cinema was still standing, albeit in the process of demolition.
Further to Ken’s comments above, the Theatre Royal duly had a £10m refurbishment in 2007, designed by Tim Foster Architects. See my photos taken in August 2014.