Members of Chester Odeon’s Boys & Girls Club promoting collecting rose hips. The smart commissionaire is Tom Holland.
By coincidence the three “super” cinemas in the city each had a chief projectionist that was there from the opening day and then stayed at the same building for a thirty year period clocking up a cumulative total of over ninety years.
The huge Gaumont Palace in Brook Street was the city’s first “super” cinema. Bertram Egginton headed the projection team from the opening day on Monday 2nd March 1931, remaining in his position until his early death in 1960 which was shortly before the Gaumont closed in 1961. His son, the late Nick Egginton went on to become a manager with Rank. He was assistant manager at Chester Odeon, and managed several Odeons including Cheltenham. Local press cuttings at the time of Bert’s death show the high esteem that he was held by the Rank Organisation when you look through the list of floral tributes. An era when members of staff where known and respected by Directors, Executives, Managers & staff of such a large company.
The second “super” cinema’s chief was Ernest Hall who was the longest serving Chester chief projectionist in the city. Starting at the Odeon just after it opened, he then trained and led the team of projectionists over a period of more than thirty one years. Included in his select staff in the projection room during the difficult war years was his wife. Due to ill health Ernest retired in 1968.
Third chief in the “super” cinema category was Hugh Jones who transferred from the Hippodrome Blackpool, taking up his position of chief projectionist from the opening day of the ABC Regal in Foregate Street on the 30th October 1937. The Regal boasted 1937 seats (later increased to 2016 seats). Like Bertram Eggington & Ernest Hall, Hugh Jones turned down further promotion to stay in Chester and to continue working in the same building for thirty years before he retired in 1967.
This month we see the anniversary of Chester’s ODEON opening ~83 years on Saturday 3rd October 1936 & ABC REGAL opening ~82 years on Saturday 30th October 1937)
By 1930 sound was making a big noise in the world of film and there were several manufacturers making equipment for the age of movie sound. This of course came at a heavy price, which no doubt left many independent exhibitors worrying about the cost, just like they did when Cinemascope with four track arrived and other cinematic advances, the latest being the high cost of digital.
A.W.H (British Photophone) appears to one of the cheapest units around, offering set A and set B equipment. Set A was designed for halls with a seating capacity of 1250 and would set the proprietor back £850, with the B unit, designed for bigger halls costing another £50. The unit is described as having special moving coil loudspeakers, accumulator excited, are used The amplifier and rectifier were in duplicate in case of failure. This equipment was chosen by the British Board of Film Censors.
British Acoustic sound was marketed at a higher price, coming in at £1150. A description states that amplifier and rectifier equipment is in duplicate and rectifying and power valves are placed away from the operating box. It was stated that the unit had several unique features, one of which was the use of a large aperture instead of a slit. This, it was stated can be adapted to all makes of projectors.
British Talking Pictures would set you back £1220 for disc and film, but in duplicate the bill would be £1545. It was reported in the Bioscope of February 1930, that the disc attachment consists of substantial casting of aluminium with an extension, on which the arm for the pick up is mounted. There is a flexible shaft connection between the turntable and the projector. It was serviced free for one year.
British Thomson Houston offered sound on film and on disc for £1250 for halls up to 2000. Accumulators were avoided. Instead a BTH generator supplied the current for the loud speaker fields. There was a 12 volt supply for the exciter lamps and an AC supply of around 750 volts. It was stated that amplification was not in duplicate but was run in parallel and that a break down did not mean the cessation of the show, but the volume was reduced by a half, which could be modified by the fader control, which had a substantial margin.
Another cheaper system was Corophone. Their sound on disc and film systems were £675 for cinemas seating up to 1200 and £775 for larger ones. The reduction gear for the turntables ran in an oil bath with direct flexible drives to the projector. This is one where sound could be adjusted from the hall. The sound on film heads could be fitted to all projectors. The amplifier had three stages with twin output rated at 24 watts with an entirely separate set of valves in reserve for breakdown. The standard set-up included four loud speakers with baffles and a monitor horn in the box.
Other units included Edibell, Filmophone, Butcher’s Electrocord and Klangfilm. Klangfilm supplied five main types of equipment. A 7 watt system supplied the audio for small halls of around 400 seats, 10 watt units for 900 seats, 50 watt for 1200, 100 watt for a large hall of 1700 seats and 200 watt for seating over this. Prices back in 1930 ranged from£1400 to a staggering £3200 with a service charge of £2 10 shillings to £5 10 shillings weekly. This was another unit where sound could be controlled from the auditorium.
Fortunately the equipment could be bought on easy terms and in some cases exhibitors only rented the equipment.
David A Ellis © chestercinemas.co.uk
As many people are aware, Paul Crofts keeps us up to date with theatrical happenings in the Chester and district areas. His coverage on the web and written pieces that appear regularly in the local press are a must for all who enjoy live entertainment.
At Chester Cinemas Paul is a valued contributor to our ever expanding website. Recently he has achieved incredible coverage in local and oversees press, radio, magazines, etc, with his splendid article on the renovation of the John Compton organ that was originally installed at Chester’s Regal cinema and is now enjoying a new lease of life after seven painstaking years of renovation by enthusiasts in Australia.
A new page on our website will be opening up mid October which will have all the information that Paul has gathered on this marvelous instrument together with actual recordings, video and recent radio coverage
The art of walking backwards! Cinema salesgirls had heavy trays loaded with ice cream & drinks. At peak times the ABC was known to have 15 girls with trays during the intervals. It was expected that they walked backwards down the aisles so customers could see the trays clearly.
Pictured along side her grandfather is Shirley Ellis. Both were well known by Chester cinema goers.
Thomas Priddin was the smart commissionaire at the Gaumount during it’s heyday in the 1950s. Shirley worked at the Classic and mostly remembered for her long service at the Odeon Theatre.