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I worked here briefly in the 80’s…and I agree with what Ian says. It was a dreadful place. During that time it was basically a glorified vagrants hostel.
They used to charge a flat fee of a pound or so, and you could stay all night, and get free coffee. But it just attracted all the vagrants, drunks and other unsavoury characters. It had a really bad reputation, so much so that very few people would ever go there during the day when they showed normal films.
Ali, I was reading your post and at first I could not place you, but then when I read the bit about your romance with a staff member, it suddenly clicked.
Would this ladies initials be PF by any chance?
I think I do remember you now.
At the time you would have worked at Eros, I would have been based at the Classic Oxford street, working under George Park. He was a lovely old guy George. I know he passed away some years back, bless him.
I remember Stuart Hall very well, and I actually got on very well with him. We were both from the North of England, which I think helped. Wonder what he is up to now.
I remember JP Williams too…a rather fussy, strait-laced man as I recall. Didn’t have too many dealings with him, but we crossed swords on a couple of occasions.
This place had a lot of character, that was for sure.
I worked the occasional shift there in my relief manager days during the 80’s
My favorite story is of the ‘bucket’ system.
The paybox was very small, and was directly below the managers office. There was a hatch built in to the floor, and a ladder so that in theory the cashier could climb out and into the office in case of any trouble.
However, it was never used in that way – someone had attatched a bucket on the end of a rope in the office, and when the cashier had collected a few quid, she would shout “Ere – send the bucket dahn!”, and you would lower the bucket down and collect the money to put in the safe.
The auditorium lights were always kept very bright when the films were on, to stop people from getting up to anything unsavoury – it was like daylight in there! Of course in places like this no one ever complained.
In fact the most common complaint was that the films were not actually hard core – the posters always promised much of course, but most of the films were basically like Carry On films with a bit more tit and bum. There was the occasional Russ Meyer season, which were at least watchable.
And it was not unheard of for films to be re titled 2 or 3 times and shown again under different names.
The staff were also an intersting collection of people…no names mentioned for obvious reasons, but think Addams Family and you will know where I am coming from :)
As a young assistant manager in the 80’s with Classic cinemas, i got to work relief shifts at a lot of these small, grotty little cinemas they had at the time.
To be honest, it was money for old rope – they didn’t take much managing, you could just open the place up, give the cashiers their floats and spend the rest of the day reading a book until closing time.
Odd place this one, very small, just a little paybox on the front, a couple of toilets (it was always best to use the ladies, as no one ever used them and they were much cleaner…), and a small auditorium with a noisy and creaky wooden floor.
The managers office was underneath the screen – it made it very interesting when you were on the phone to friends, and they wondered what the moaning and groaning was…:)
In my day the staff rooms were downstairs, the mens on the right next to the managers office on the ground floor, and the ladies downstairs between screens 2 and 3.
There were 2 floors of offices above the main projection room, which in the Classic cinema days were the main head office. Once they were bought by Cannon and acquired offices in other locations those floors were rarely used, until they converted one of the floors into a state-of-the-art computer facility which housed the companies main financial records. I can remember having a cardkey to access the floor, which was quite unusual in those days.
I wonder if the old lift is still there? It actually started from the first floor rather than the ground, and was on the right hand side as you walk in – you go up the main stairs and it’s immmidiately on the right. Very small, 2 people max and a rickety old thing it was too, forever breaking down.
And what about the Soda Fountain restaurant in the basement? I am a little hazy on the full history, but I believe it was either never actually used or only opened for a very short time, some time in the 70’s. It was located downstairs on the same level as the screens, but had a separate door which was accessed on the way to the main exit door.
When I worked there, it was actually used for premiere receptions and press receptions/special screenings. The soda fountain counter was used as a bar (it still had the metal trays, scoops, the lot), it was in reasonably good condition and actually had fountains, though they did not actually work.
Over the years there were various attempts to sell it off to outside companies, which never came to anything.
Unfortunately there were a lot of problems with the mens toilets which were directly above, they had some flooding and this completely ruined the restuarant – soaked carpets, mildew on the walls etc and it became unusable.
I often wonder what became of it, anyone know?
I worked at this theatre from 1984 to 1992.
In 1986 there was a fire which gutted most of the foyer. It as believed to have been started deliberately by someone ho had broken in at night, and was set in a cupboard on the right side of the theatre as you walked in the main doors, where the public telephones were located. As a result the theatre was closed for about 6 months, and the film Purple Rose Of Cairo was due to start there the next day. The film, and indeed most of the staff were relocated to the Cannon Royal cinema in Charing Cross road instead.
Because of where the fire started, the structure and the wooden staircase at the left side of the foyer was largely intact, so that side of the cinema was cleaned up relatively quickly and the theatre opened for business while the other part of the foyer was cordoned off and restored. Once the right side was restored, the left side was then closed and restored properly while the right section was opened.
The greatest loss was probably the original ceiling – drawings were taken from the remains and new sections were created to look as close to the original as possible.
Because of the extensive damage to the woodwork on the right side, the bannister and stairway had to be replaced – the difference in quality to the left side in very noticable.
A great shame, as it was one of the fewer older cinemas left in London’s West End.