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Just got the program for this year’s BFI London Film Festival, and I was surprised to see that they are again using the larger auditoriums of the Vue, considering the greatly reduced seating capacity after the renovation.
I agree too, Lionel. I’ve been going to London cinemas since 1967 when I was in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany. It was quite an event flying over to London to see great films at the Warner, Carlton, Dominion, Astoria, and the Classic Cinemas. At the bigger ones, they had an interval after the shorts and trailers, and they had usherettes coming through the aisles wearing trays containing ice cream parfaits and other treats for sale. There was usually a Pathe or Movietone newsreel. And the national anthem was played after the last showing at night. Curtains, flooded in colored light, were used. Now I’m living in the USA and I fly to London a couple of times a year to see movies in nice cinemas. Doing away with Empire Screen 1 was an abomination! It was my favorite cinema. I still like the Odeon Leicester Square, but they usually play the blockbuster films that I’m not interested in seeing. I also like the Prince Charles, and NFT 1 is great. But the showmanship and presentation is sadly a thing of the past.
How will that affect the BFI London Film Festival with their reduced seating capacity? Lack of large auditoriums last year caused them to build a temporary auditorium beside the Thames.
Loew’s never operated the Genito. It was built and originally operated by Cineplex-Odeon.
When I went to the Playhouse in the early sixties, the curtain was not motorized. When it opened, it looked like someone was pulling the rope with one hand, it was so jerky. I also noticed they did not mask their flat picture, but had the screen opened all the way. I worked in some theatres where the curtain was used for side masking, but I didn’t see this at the Playhouse.
No, I was a member of Richmond, VA, Local 370. I was going to relocate in St. Pete in 1969 and join 552. Cecil Fernandez, the business agent who worked at Plaza 1, sent me to the Cameo and State to familiarize myself with the booths, but both theatres got their closing notices, so I returned to Richmond.
You had to climb a ladder at the back of the auditorium to get to the booth.
Does anyone have any pictures of the auditorium?
When I checked out the Cameo booth, they had Super Simplex projectors, but in the room off to the side were two Brenkert projector heads from the Florida Theatre, which they were going to install in the Cameo. But when I was there, they got two weeks notice on the Cameo, so it never happened.
Cecil sent me to the State and Cameo, but they both closed before I got to work there. Chuck Horton was at the Cameo and John was at the State.
I checked out the Plaza booth under Cecil Fernandez, but I never got to work there.
I visited the Vue West End again for the 2016 BFI London Film Festival, and the curtains and stage lights were used in Cinemas 5 and 7. It looked very nice. Then I saw a non-festival film in one of the basement cinemas, and curtains and stage lights were not used. I could see that they have the type of curtain that rises because I could see it above the screen. What I don’t understand is, if they have them, why don’t they use them? It makes for a much nicer presentation.
I visited the Monroe Theatre several times. In the picture above, the red doors were the exit doors next to the screen. The screen was at the street end of the theatre. The entrance was on the right. The ticket counter and concession stands were on the right of the long entrance way, which went all the way to the back of the building and was parallel to the auditorium. You would make two left turns there and you would be at the back of the auditorium. The auditorium had green stage curtains flooded in green light. Flat and scope pictures were common width, with masking at the bottom which would be raised for scope pictures. Flat pictures were almost in the scope ratio, which made for too much cropping of the picture. When I used to go there in the middle 60s, they didn’t have tickets. When you paid, they kept track of admissions with tally marks on a sheet of paper. I don’t know what they did if they had to give refunds, since there were no ticket stubs. The theatre was the first theatre I ever attended that had push-back seats.
I saw the 70mm version of GONE WITH THE WIND. It was badly cropped at the top and bottom and a vertical pan-and-scan was used. It was also an abomination.
When I attended the BFI London Film Festival in 2014, the curtains were used, but not at the 2015 festival.
When I worked there from 1969 to 1983, we had two Simplex X-L projectors with Peerless Magnarc Lamps and a carbon-arc spotlight. Great picture!
The Park was in the 800 block of East Broad Street where the Trailways Bus Station used to be. The Grand had once been the Bluebird. It was at 620 East Broad.
I’m currently attending the BFI London Film Festival 2015, and they are not using their curtains. If they have them, then why not use them? It makes for a more polished and professional presentation.
I agree that they need a curtain, or at least flood the screen in colored light.
I went there last week to see ST. VINCENT. They’re STILL not using their curtain.
I was there tonight to see THE GODFATHER. They had an excellent 35mm print but it was very dark and much of the sound was unintelligible due to bad acoustics. They did use the curtain at the beginning and end. I sat in the balcony. There was a very large crowd.
I was there this week and saw ANNABELLE on their Impact screen. I was very impressed.
The Playhouse had a beautiful curved CinemaScope screen, but it had no movable masking. When a flat picture (1.85:1) was shown, the whole width of the screen was exposed. It had a curtain which was manually operated. It opened in a jerky manner, as if someone was using just one hand on the rope.
They did use the gold curtains during the BFI London Film Festival and it made for a nice presentation. I have never seen them used during regular performances. What a shame!
Yes, ghostman59, you are correct about the Trans-Lux. Rhonda Carter is now married and living in Florida. I worked there as assistant manager and projectionist. Jim Robison, his wife Linda, his daughter Laurie, his step-daughters Janet and Jean, and his step-son Wesley all worked there. I have many happy memories of working there.