Our latest update – APRIL 2019


The late Scott Walker

Scott Walker who died on 22nd March 2019, appeared on stage at the ABC 53 years ago – 29th March 1966.
The Walker Bothers returned to the ABC the same year on 3rd October, this time as the starring artists.


A chance to see the new documentary on all eleven of Chester’s cinemas

Join us at Chester Museum on Saturday 8th June when David A Ellis & Peter Davies will be presenting a question and answer talk on Chester Cinemas, and then another chance to see the new documentary on all eleven of Chester’s cinemas that was shown at our Evening At The Movies last February. Ticket details will be posted on this website in a few days time.



Mention the GAUMONT Manchester to cinema enthusiasts and you are guaranteed to enter into their world of cinematic wonderment when they explain that in their view ‘it was one of the finest cinemas in the UK’.  Roger Shone is one such enthusiast who went one step further in making sure that this magnificent cinema did not vanish in a cloud of dust.

The magnificent auditorium of the GAUMONT Manchester

Plaster work saved by Roger Shone

Before the demolition company moved in during 1990, Roger had made formal requests to the owners permitting him to go on site and remove pieces of the ornate plaster work that made this building very special.  Like many cinemas of not so long a go, few clear images survive. Again we have Roger to thank for researching many of the photographs that will bring back memories of cinemas like the GAUMONT.

Gaumont Manchester

Thanks to Roger we will be adding many rare photographs on our website of this iconic Manchester cinema in the next week or so.



Early cinema projection.

A 1912 Projection Room

In the silent days before 1910 the projectionist was in the auditorium with the patrons. The projector would be in the aisle and the operator would operate the projector by turning an handle. The film would usually fall into a basket. The film was nitrate base so could easily go up in flames. This happened on numerous occasions. In 1910 it became law that projection equipment had to be housed in a separate area from the audience. So, cinemas had to construct projection rooms containing fire proof shutters. Also there had to be a bucket of water, a bucket of sand and an asbestos blanket, as fire precautions. The projection room had to be separate from the rewind area. Only film on the projectors was allowed in the projection box. This practice was kept until the introduction of safety base in the fifties. Then it was allowed to rewind film in the projection box. Another strict rule was no smoking, and signs would be placed in the projection and rewind rooms.

Staff in a projection room in the early days would be three or four people a shift. There would be one man turning the handle between sixteen and eighteen frames per second, another would be attending to the carbons, having to constantly feed them, as there was no automatic feed. Another would be taking care of rewinding. In 1911 projectors became motorised, eliminating the need to hand crank, though it was still possible to hand crank if desired. Some distributors stated the speed which they wanted their film screened. Some projectors had frames per second meters on them. One of them was the Kalee eleven.


In 1927 the first part talkie/silent film, The Jazz Singer with sound on disc was shot at 24 frames per second (fps). 24 fps became the speed for sound films with optical sound tracks. Film ran through the projector at 18 inches per second, 90 feet per minute.

Projection work could be a little on the unhealthy side due to carbon dust being inhaled when cleaning arcs, carbon fumes being breathed in before extraction was fitted, possible exposure to asbestos, which was used on cables connected to the equipment, and the dangers of some early machinery with a front flicker shutter that wasn’t encased, and could do damage if contact was made. There were also cleaning fluids that were suspect where health was concerned and the dangers of rewinding poor prints that could make a nasty cut to your fingers.

1928 Ross Projector

In the nitrate days films were shipped in 1000ft foot rolls giving eleven minutes running time. These would often be joined together into 2000ft rolls by the projectionist, using film cement. Tape joiners were a long time into the future. When safety base film came along in the 1950s films were sent in 2000ft rolls.

Projection rooms varied in size, some having limited movement. In 1932 The Bioscope magazine reported on the opening of the Dominion Hounslow, stating that it has one of the largest projection rooms in London. It was equipped with Walturdaw and Western Electric sound. There were several makes of projector including Kalee, Simplex, Kamm, John Bull, Empire and BTH, made in Rugby. Kalee machines were made in Leeds by Kershaws, and Simplex was made in New York by the International Projector Corporation.

Exhibitors found themselves paying out huge sums to install sound. You could buy the disc and optical system or just the optical system. In 1929 a Cinephone disc and optical system cost between £1500 to £1950. Easy terms were usually on offer.

The cinema has come a long way from those early days. We have seen wide screens, 3D, 70mm, safety base film, polyester film stock, non rewind systems (cake stand) and towers, eliminating changeovers, magnetic sound tracks, Dolby Stereo, xenon lamps, Dolby Digital and now digital projection. Most cinemas have removed their 35mm equipment and most has been skipped. Fortunately there is the Projected Picture Trust (PPT) who have saved equipment and have examples of all machines at their headquarters in Halifax.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk


Many thanks to our Facebook group member Phil Evans for bringing this brilliant photograph to our attention

Some famous guests at Liverpool Odeon 1964

Odeon Liverpool 1964


Extract from an article in the Manchester Evening News Friday February 20th 1948.

 There are today in Britain approximately 4,700 cinemas. The average capacity of each cinema is between 900 and 1,000 seats, or one seat for every 10 persons in the country. In the last months of 1947 an average of 28,081,000 tickets were sold at the box offices of these cinemas each week. But this does not mean that half of the population of Britain goes to the pictures once a week.

An analysis prepared by the Board of Trade last September showed that although 32 per cent of the population goes to the cinema at least once a week, another 27 per cent of British adults never go at all. But among them this 32 per cent, paying an average of 1s. 9d. for a seat, spent £109,078,750 last year on cinema going alone. Of this gigantic total British films netted about £21,815,750.

The rest some £87,263,000 was earned by American made films. When entertainment tax in the year ending March 1947, the Treasury collected £41,390,000 in this way from the industry, operation and distribution charges had been deducted Hollywood still had a handsome contribution of £17,000,000 from British Film fans

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk


The latest computer generated image of the new multiplex cinema, Picture House, that will hopefully be built next to the Storyhouse. Small in design, it will be on top of the proposed new Chester Market.



Cinematographer Sue Gibson

Sue Gibson

The late Sue Gibson born on the 8th November 1952 in Derbyshire. She was the first woman to become a member of the British Society of Cinematographers and became their president from 2008 – 2010. She studied at the National Film and Television School. In 2005 she was given the Women in Film Contribution to the Median Award. In 1970 she studied photograpy at art college in Newport South Wales. Sue Gibson passed away on 27th July 2016. There is now an award in her name called The Sue Gibson Cinematography Award presented by the National Film and Television School.

DE: How old were you when you got interested in cameras?

SG: I received my first camera at fourteen and when I was at art college I was encouraged to tell stories in pictures. This got me interested in film. I always loved the cinema, but didn’t know what I loved about it. It was a natural progression from Newport to go to the Film School.

DE: How old were you when you left film school?

SG: I was twenty nine and a woman wanting to be a cinematographer was unusual in those days. After leaving the school I became a clapper loader.

DE: What was your first film as a clapper loader?

SG: It was Privates on Parade (1982). When I was doing the film The director of photography, Ian Wilson offered me the job of second unit director of photography For a couple of days. After that I carried on as a clapper loader for around two years.. Then I got a break as a director of photography shooting commercials. So, I bypassed the focus puller and operating stages. I have been very lucky that I have worked with very good focus puller and camera operators, who taught me a lot.

DE: How long were you on commercials?

SG: I was on commercials for ten years and then got my first feature called Hear My Song. It was a fantastic, and a great film to work on. It some respects it was a breath of fresh air because on commercials you were always beholden to the production company. After my first film I did a picture with playwright Dennis Potter called Secret Friends (1991). Potter directed it and it was great to work with someone of his calibre.

DE: What do you think of digital cinematography?

SG: Everything must move on. Working with digital can be easier because you can see things straight away. In the TV world we no longer use film, everything is file based using hard drives.

DE: Do you shoot more footage shooting digital?

SG: Sometimes more is shot. When we use film you have to be careful not to overshoot due to cost.

DE: Do you prefer features, TV or both?

SG: I think I prefer features because you have more control. It is much more your vision on features than TV. Now, as far as equipment goes digital in the TV world is the same as features.

DE: Have you ever considered directing?

SG: My love is the visual image. Directing is very much about interacting with the actors. I am happy behind the camera.

DE: Have you ever mixed film stocks?

The late- SUE GIBSON

SG: Mrs Dalloway (1997) took place in two different periods. To differentiate between the two, Victorian and 1920s I decided to use two different stocks. I used Fuji for the twenties and Kodak for the Victorian sequences. DE: Finally, Have you any hobbies away from film? SG: Yes, I enjoy horse riding. I did learn to fly. I have given it up now but it was my passion. I flew single and twin engine planes, including sea planes. I have flown a over the world.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk