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Some Roadshow dates:
FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (opening film 9 weeks) 17th Aug – 10th Oct 1964
IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (4 weeks) 1st Nov – 28th Nov
MARY POPPINS (11 weeks) 4th April – 19th June 1965
THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES (8 weeks) 15th Aug – 9th Oct 1965
THE GREAT RACE (6 weeks) 3rd Apr – 14 May 1966
THE BIBLE (6 weeks) 12th March – 22nd April 1967
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (9 weeks) 14th May – 15th July 1967
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (9 weeks) 20th Aug – 25th Oct 1967
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (19 weeks) 17th Dec 1967 – 27 Apr 1968
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (10 weeks) 16th Dec 1968 – 22 Feb 1969
ICE STATION ZEBRA (8 weeks) 13th July – 6th Sept 1969
KRAKATOA – EAST OF JAVA (4 weeks)7th Sept – 4th Oct 1969
THE LION IN WINTER (6 weeks) 5th Oct – 15th Nov 1969
SONG OF NORWAY (18 weeks) 20th Dec 1970 – 24th April 1971
NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (7 weeks) 26th Dec 1971 – 12th Feb 1972
I recently recieved a letter from Beryl Marshall, who was Assistant Manager at the Odeon during some of my time there.
I started at the Odeon in 1961 as a full time Usherette. The Manager was Mr Holgale, the Staff Supervisor was Mrs Burgess. We had wooden ice cream trays, which were very heavy and you had to walk down the aisles backwards. One usherette was spotlighted to commence sales. At the front of the auditorium was a rising platform, originally housing an organ played during intervals. In the building we had a classic restaurant. We had many live shows and I saw stars like; The Beatles, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey. The Beach Boys spent all day prior to the show, fine-tuning the acoustics. I remember meeting the old Leeds United players; Billy Bremner, Alan Clarke, Paul Reaney. We had many Charity Nights and famous Boxing Matches, via satellite from America. We also broadcasted late night Chinese shows. We then changed to three cinemas, the smallest being where the restaurant (then bar) originally was. In September 1968, I was made redundant (closure for twinning) but returned in May 1969 to re-apply for my post. I continued working untill ill health forced me to leave in 1992. I have happy memmories of my time in the Odeon and hope my words have stirred some happy thoughts in readers.
Some Todd-AO / 70mm Roadshows at the Majestic:
SOUTH PACIFIC – 21st Sept 1958 to 27th June 1959 (40 weeks)
THE SOUND OF MUSIC – 18th April 1965 to 30th Sept 1967 (128 weeks)
DOCTOR DOLITTLE – 24th Dec 1967 to 27 April 1968 (18 weeks)
STAR! – 21st July 1968 to 23rd Nov 1968 (18 weeks)
OLIVER! – 22nd Dec 1968 to 26th April (18 weeks)
Clive is certainly correct when he says Odeon 1 was the perfect auditorium to experience a film. Indeed ‘Fiddler on the roof'was one of many outstanding presentations, when showmanship was the name of the game. Other stand out Roadshows were Scrooge, where full use was made of the ceiling surround speakers during the 'See the phantoms’ scene. Hello Dolly! was another great presentation in 70mm and six track stereo, especially in the parade sequence just before the intermission, the sound was phenomenal. Alan Thornton who was General Manager for 25 years always maintained that the film which stood out most for him regarding great business, was Star Wars which ran for 13 weeks from 29th January 1978. Who can forget the fabulous Dolby Stereo, a new innovation at the time. Odeon 2 also had its moments. Close Encounters played in Odeon 2 in 70mm and Dolby Stereo for 16 weeks from 2nd April 1978. Its no lie that on occasions, the queue for Star Wars along the Headrow and the queue for Close Encounters along Briggate met at the bottom on Vicar Lane!
When I worked there in the 90’s, it was great to stand at the back of Odeon 1 and experience a full house for one blockbuster after another, ‘Dances with wolves’ and ‘Silence of the lambs’ for example but nothing compared to the Roadshow years.
Has anything come to fruition about converting the Crescent for theatrical use? It seems to have gone very quiet after the initial speculation.
In response to Clive Gardeners excellent recollections above, just a couple of comments – The Curtains in Odeon 1 were originally grey and the footlights played three different colours on to them, Blue, Red and Amber. They gradually turned cream over the years though, as they were never changed in over 30 years! Ryans Daughter didn’t show at the Odeon. It was an MGM/EMI Release and played at ABC 1 on Vicar Lane.
There are some photos of the Crescent Auditorium, The Playhouse and Thr Alexandra at www.wakefieldmuseums.org Go into museum collections and scroll down to historic photographs. There was a fire in the Crescent, (not sure of the date) and the original auditorium was gutted so there are photos of the original auditorium (1926) with windows above the proscenium and some of the reconstructed art deco auditorium which lasted until conversion in 1970, the two pillars at each side of the screen were removed for the installation of cinemascope.There are also a few photos that are definitely not the Crescent but could possibly be the Alexandra auditorium. Hope this helps.
In reference to carousel10’s question of ‘Whats behind the screen’– There is about 6 feet of space behind the screen and the wall, housing the massive speakers (mono only, i’m afraid. Dolby never got to Pontefract.) The top and about 3 feet down of the old Proscenium Arch is visible in the original colours of the old Crescent colour scheme (blue and pink). The lower part of the proscenium and stage was removed from the old stalls area in the 80’s. I agree would be great to use the old place as a Live Venue again. Possibly with Film shows too like the Pictureville at Bradford. It is easily accesible from the motorway and has ample free parking on an evening at the car park at the back.
Its Great to hear there are some more Ex Odeon employees out there who have happy recollections of the old place. Can’t place who you are though.
The Odeon was indeed a great place to work. I worked there from 1990 to 1996. When I started it was the Grey/Candystripe uniform, we progressed to the hideous blue jackets, with the big red ‘O’ on the pocket and bow ties about 1993. I started working there on 19th December 1990, the films showing were ‘Home Alone’ ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ ‘Little Mermaid’ ‘Repossessed’ and ‘Captain America’. The Manager at that time was Alan Thornton, who had been there since the opening of the Odeon ‘Twins'in 1969. A true showman. He would argue every monday morning with the booking department about which film was going in which screen, he nearly always won, he knew his audience. He had many stories to tell of his long career in cinema. After his retirement, Phil Westhead became Manager followed by Helen Jordan. We had 4 Assistant Managers, Beryl Marshall and Doreen Lee who had both worked at the Odeon in the 60’s prior to conversion. Margaret Walker and Paula Huddlestone were the other two. The place was a labyrinth. In those days we sold ice cream in the auditorium and the Fridge Room, where we stocked the trays up, was behind the screen of Odeon 1. To get down to Odeons 2,2 & 4 you had to carry your fully laden tray down a deep narrow stairwell at the back of the building. This was the stairwell to the old dressing rooms and there was still a couple of those at the very top of the building and the Stage Doorman’s room at the bottom. There also 'The Workshop’ which was in the old Grill Room and Kitchens of the restaurant above Odeon 5. This was where the Handyman did all his repairs and where all manner of stuff was stored, a real aladdins cave of movie memorabilia collected over the years. We had 5 projectionists, two Dave’s, Chris, Paul and Peter. I worked in the Box Office, Kiosk, Bar, Tearing Tickets and seating, selling ice cream, clearing the cinemas after each show. We all did, generally speaking you worked where you were needed at any one time in the day. Working in a cinema is either something you love or hate, once you’ve seen a film (or parts of it) for the 20th time, the magic wears off a bit. Most staff came and went very quickly but some of us stayed for years and because of the long hours, saw more of each other than our families. I made many great friends during my time at the Odeon and still keep in touch with many of them, Val, Maureen, Carol, Eillen, Kath, Beryl, Paula, Richard, Les. We have a reunion every six months in Leeds and have a great time, usually laughing at the stuff we got up to and the things that happened in the course of a day. If anyone remembers any of our motley crew, get in touch.
Summer Season Roadshows- (alternate weeks, June to mid September)
1966- The Sound of Music / Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines
1967- The Sound of Music / A Man for all Seasons
1968- Thoroughly Modern Millie / The Happiest Millionaire
1969- Star! / Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
1970- Oliver! / Battle of Britain
1971- Cromwell / Waterloo / Anne of the Thousand days
1972- Fiddler on the Roof / Bedknobs and Broomsticks
My involvement with the Crescent began in 1965. I was 10 years old and was a Saturday morning monitor. We had the job of trying to make the other children behave during the rowdy mornings.I also helped out tearing tickets, seating customers, filling up ice cream trays etc during school holidays.I did this for 8 years and loved every minute of it, until I left school in 1973. Even after leaving school I still worked on a part time basis for the big films of the day until it closed in 1993. I remember the times when the 1200 seater was packed for films like The Sound Of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Thunderball, the queues stretched all the way along Ropergate. Some of the films were special presentations and the seats were bookable with separate performances.I was there the night it closed in 1970 for conversion. We were showing ‘The prime of Miss Jean Brodie’,the builders arrived before the film had finished and started ripping out the foyer and offices, when the customers came out at the end of the film they had to make their way carefully around the wood and rubble. It was sad later to watch the screen and festoon curtain taken down and the seats taken out prior to the major work starting. The Bingo club was the first to open on 22nd June.The cinema opened as Studio One on Monday 6th July 1970. The opening film was ‘Kes’. Highlights of the later years were Jaws in 1977, Star Wars and Close Encounters in 1978. The longest run at the cinema was ‘Grease’ in 1978, it ran for 6 weeks filling nearly every seat for every performance seat. In those days it was continouous performances and it was quite a job getting 400 people out and another 400 in within 10 minutes. I Have many happy memories of my time at the cinema and still keep in touch with a few of the staff,
Geoff Ward the projectionist, Mary ,Irene, Carol, Pauline the usherettes. Mrs Smith who was the assistant manager and then Manager for many years, died a couple of years ago aged 99.I have fond memories of Maureen during the run of Lawrence of Arabia in the 60’s, after a particularly busy intermission said ‘I’m going to end up bowlegged if I carry many more drinks on this tray!'We had some great fun, happy days!
I believe the building is now privately owned.The problem with using the Crescent for live productions is that the old stage and dressing rooms, in the old stalls area, have long gone.They were removed when bingo was replaced by snooker in the 80’s.The stage in the upstairs cinema is only a false floor and is not suitable for any kind of stage production.The only way the building could be used is to restore it to somewhere near its former glory, before subdivision.
I remember this theatre very well and was sad to hear of its closure and demolition.
In 1992 we were on vacation from the UK and were touring California and Nevada. We stayed at Rockaway Bay while visiting San Fransisco. One evening we went to this theatre to see ‘Sister Act’. We were the only two customers in the theatre.In fact we were the only two customers in the building as there was no one in ‘Buffy ,The Vampire Slayer’ which was showing in the second cinema. What we remember most was the couple who ran the theatre.They would probably be in their late 50’s or early 60’s.They seemed genuinely pleased to see us. The lady sold the tickets and concessions, the gentleman was the projectionist.They kept the theatre open just for us two to watch the movie. When we left at the end of the show, they were both at the doors to say goodnight to us. Whenever we see ‘Sister Act’ now, we always remember that night in the Seavue at Pacifica and the lovely couple who made us feel so welcome.
When the Crescent reopened as Studio 1 in 1970, a Read-o-graph was put on the lower facade (below the ballroom window,)the rest of the facade was covered to the top, with white cladding. This was to obscure the Crescent mural at the top of the building.In the early 80’s the white cladding was removed but the read-o-graph remained. The Studio 1 logo was changed to Cannon Cinema about 1984 when it was purchased by the Cannon Group. The cinema was sold to private owners in 1987 and the cinema reverted to its original name, The Crescent. When the cinema closed in 1993 the empty read-o-graph remained for a couple more years before being removed.
The cinema remains much the same as it did when it closed in 1993 although I believe there has been some preventative work on the staircase to stop damp, which was always a problem on the outer walls. The Stage would not be suitable for stage productions as it has a steep rake and is only a false floor covering the front of the old stalls area. Its a shame it remains empty but at least it hasn’t yet suffered the fate of the other three cinemas in Pontefract. The Playhouse was demolished in 1966, The Alexandra in 1971 and the Premier in the late 90’s.There are some excellent photo’s of the Crescent interior, prior to conversion and of the Playhouse and Alexandra on the Pontefract Museum website.
The last film shown at The Crescent was ‘The Mighty Ducks’ in 1993. The last film shown in 1970, prior to conversion to Cinema/Bingo was ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. The Crescent closed on Saturday 16th May 1970 and reopened six weeks later as Studio One, in the former Circle. The opening film was ‘Kes’