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I was sent on a two week attachment with the projection staff at the Manchester Film Theatre in 1969 and have fond memories of those couple of weeks. At that time the theatre was equipped with a pair of Philips DB 70s with a custom sound system, which from memory was developed by an engineer at Granada TV. If memory serves there was also a dual head 35mm projector, and a 16mm projector. The auditorium boasted an impressive set of deeply curved curtains that ran from floor to almost the ceiling. Sadly the screen behind them was much smaller, which was a shame. When I arrived they were showing a 35mm optical print of Elvira Madigan, but shortly afterwards the programme changed to a 70mm six track magnetic print of King of Kings. Having only handled 35mm prints, I was surprised how hard it was to turn the machine over manually when lacing up a 70mm print. Happy days.
I was one of the original crew at the Sherman and worked there as projectionist and sound engineer from 1973 – 1974. The original installation consisted of a pair of Philips FP20 35mm projectors (mono optical only) and a Philips FP16 16mm projector (mono optical & mag). All fitted with Zennon arc lamps.
I returned to the Sherman in 1980 and finally left in 1989. During my second stint, we were able to acquire a couple of Stereo optical heads which we fitted to the projectors. Finances wouldn’t run to purchasing a Dolby stereo setup, so we built our own power supplies and pre-amps and fed the output into the theatre sound system giving three channels behind the screen and two at the rear of the auditorium. It gave a nice flat response, and good stereo imaging with rear channel when available and was an obvious improvement over the original system. But with no noise reduction of course. Still I seem to remember it cost us a fraction of the price of a full Dolby system. At one point we were hopeful of swapping the projectors for a pair of Philips DB70s Rank had in storage locally, but negotiations fell through. I suspect Rank didn’t want anyone to start showing 70mm in Cardiff. We also ran a newly restored copy of Napoleon which included the famous triptych last reel (early cinerama). This had been transferred in “cinemascope” format onto silent film. Unfortunately even though we opened the screen up to it’s fullest width, it still wasn’t wide enough so we had to reduce the picture height by using a different lens. Still pretty impressive. Sad it’s all gone now.
Just as a point of interest, the boarded over panel with the sun flood above on the newer brickwork, which denotes what was the original projection box, was originally a fresh air Louvre. This was another requirement of the license for showing nitrate film as you had to have a second exit from the projection box that led to immediate fresh air in case of fire. At that time the projection box was on stilts and because of that the floor was bitterly cold in winter. I now live in Cardiff, but must try to get over to see the old place sometime.
I meant to add that the large vertical cabinet on the wall is actually the shell of the original non sync (record decks) put to better use when we acquired a more modern Thorens unit. The original non syncs were very heavy and simply wrecked modern (at the time) LPs. Whilst most cinemas in Bristol still played “Mantovani” type of music, we started playing “pop” records which I often brought in from home, once we got something decent to play them on in stereo.
Good to see the old place is still showing Films. My first job was projectionist at the Arts Centre from 1969 – 1973 after I left College. At the time we were the only cinema in Bristol that could still show the old nitrate films on the old Kalee 21 projectors. I remember installing the wall lights in the auditorium which we removed from the coffee bar when it closed, I also did a fair amount of re-wiring in the projection box which was in a poor state when I joined. There were only four full time staff then. Reg Allsop was the general manager, Anne Godfrey in charge of film programming, Sonia running the box office, and myself showing the films and looking after the occasional small scale touring theatre shows we bought in. Happy days.