This month’s update marks two years since chestercinemas.co.uk was formed. Since then it’s popularity has gathered steady pace with thousands accessing the web pages on a regular basis.
The founders, David A Ellis, Roger Shone, and Peter Davies are grateful for all the memories and photographs shared by our website users.
Two major Hollywood stars, Charles Laughton, with his wife , Elsa Lanchester, pictured here on Bridge Street Row, when they made a private visit to Chester where they had family connections.
Both born in England. Elsa was best known for her role in “The Bride Of Frankenstein”, with Charles often receiving “top billing” over such stars as Clark Gable!
chestercinemas.co.uk (c) researched
A good friend of Chester cinemas, and in particular to the Odeon was Tom Degg, who was the chief projectionist at the Odeon Hanley and the Odeon Festival Park, Stoke-On-Trent. When Chester Odeon was turned into a three screen cinema during 1976 one of Tom’s projectors, a 35mm/70mm Victoria 8 was sent across to be installed into screen two. He made regular trips across to Chester from this point, and one suspected that he was keeping tabs that the machine was being well cared for. His knowledge on all aspects of projection equipment was well known within the Rank Organisation, together with good technical management skills. It was then of no surprise when he was appointed to the then important position of chief projectionist at Rank’s first purposed built multiplex cinema at Stoke On Trent’s Festival Park.
His romance with 70mm projection continued to be his main focus. He had worked on 70mm projection for many years and was without doubt an authority on the subject. Often Regional Service Engineers would contact him if they were stuck on adjustments or repairs to these projectors. He took enormous pride in the recruitment and training of his technicians, who in turn were very loyal towards him.
In the featured photograph Tom can be seen by a DP70 (841) projector, which was originally from a cinema in Luton, this was rescued by Tom from a technical school in Burton-on-Trent during the course of demolition in 2005. It was owned privately by him and was in situ alongside ODEON 7 at the Festival Park site, being set up for 70mm presentation and was in full working order, with a 35mm conversion in storage.
Tom Degg recently passed away, but left a technical legacy that will remain in cinemas for many years to come.
Peter Davies ©chestercinemas.co.uk
©Patrick Brown, Technician ODEON Festival Park Stoke-on-Trent.
The Odeon Kensington in London was opened at the beginning of 1926. Originally named the Kensington Kinema, it was a huge 2370 seat silent cinema. It was one of the first steel framed constructed cinema buildings in the UK, which set the trend for all modern cinemas constructed thereafter.
It opened as a triple cinema the same month, April 1976, as Chester Odeon. During these, and further alterations, most of the original ornate auditorium was hidden by the partitioning to form additional screens. As seen in the demolition picture of 2016/17, once the partitioning was removed, elements of the old Kensington Kinema were there to be seen for the final time. The facade will be retained.
Included in this 1950’s photograph of management and staff taken in the Odeon’s circle foyer lounge are manager John Ellis(fourth from right), cashier Kath Potter(third from left) and usherette Joyce Hodgkinson(third from right).
Ron Evans, pictured here in front of a backdrop of the magnificent ABC Chester, worked there as a projectionist in the early to mid 1960’s. He was responsible for not just showing films, but for organizing the immense amount of technical maintenance that was associated with a cinema of that size (2016 seats). He was involved with the preparations in converting the cinema stage in readiness for the highly successful pop shows, meeting many of the major stars who appeared on stage at that time. Before his ABC employment, Ron had worked at the Classic (Tatler) cinema, which was just a short distance away from the ABC on Foregate Street.
Camera operator Peter Taylor is the son of the late cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who photographed many notable films, including Star Wars, Dr Strangelove and A Hard Day’s Night. After leaving school he worked for Samuelsons in London.
After Samuelsons you went to Elstree , would you tell me about that.
I started loading on TV material, including The Barron and The Avengers. This was an amazing show, which was miles ahead of its time. It was shot on 35mm, and each episode took around two weeks to shoot.
You went on to become a focus puller and worked with your father on Frenzy, directed by Hitchcock. What was it like working for Hitchcock?
It was a great honour. At that point he was getting on and would sometimes sit around and occasionally fall asleep, but he knew exactly what was going on. He would often tell funny stories.
After twelve years you moved onto operating – what was that like?
When you start out you have to learn to deal with people. As a focus puller you are in your own world. As an operator you are more the mouth piece for the camera. You have to learn quickly how to talk to actors and directors. The only way you can do that is to go in at the deep end, and do your best.
Would you tell me a bit about Gravity?
Apart from the Soyuz and Shunza capsules scenes, which were live sets, the whole movie had been predetermined by a comprehensive pre-vis created during the pre-production period. My task as the operator was primarily to co-ordinate the camera moves as per the final pre-vis. The complicated nature of many of the moves made that challenging. My lap top would be loaded with a particular pre-vis and that also contained all the information and co-ordinates that I needed to work out a move. I would then go off with my team and rehearse the shot with the stand-ins and puppeteers until we had nailed it down. Basically we would then be ready to fine tune and shoot the scene when it was scheduled.
David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk