This photograph sent across from Roger Shone shows a huge GAUMONT PALACE sign painted on the side of the building, with a banner board sign with the same message positioned directly above it.
Roger explained that the name was shortened to Gaumont because too many cinemas had palace added to their names and the company thought the term was out of fashion. However, paint takes along time to melt away and this sign could still be seen into the 80’s & 90’s, long after cinema had left the building in 1961.
I was a young newsreel cameraman in my twenties working for British Movietonews in the 1960’s when I was assigned to film a story by assignment manager Paul Wyand about the progress of the construction on the Post Office Tower which was being erected in Cleveland Street London W1 (later renamed The London Telecom Tower).
Armed with camera plus assistant I proceed to the Post Office Tower as it was then known, upon arrival we entered a quite a primitive caged hoist which took forever to reach to the top of the tower,in fact it took over 15 seconds to stop bouncing before we enlightened from cage, unlike the present lifts/elevators which take only 30 seconds to travel the whole distance of 620 feet.
I can remember distinctively however being surprisingly handed a white envelope by my assistant, when asking whats this was about he indicated that he had been instructed by assignment manager Paul Wyand who had ask him to hand the envelope over only after we had reached pinnacle of tower and under know circumstances before hand. I can remember opening the envelope cautiously under the a Giant Tower Crane Jib which was over hanging us with a crane bucket extended at least sixty feet out, checked the contents of the letter it read, your company has paid heavy insurance cost enabling you to shoot for 30 minute period from the crane bucket, the crane operator has been instructed to position at the full extent of the jib arm enabling you to obtain hopefully remarkable shots over London,and that you will be swung 360 degrees around the Tower in order to obtain a bird eye view over London. I have to says I was petrified at the time,it was pure luck I didn’t suffer from vertigo.
Some years later I had the opportunity of visiting the Post Office Tower and having dinner with my wife and Swiss mother in law who spoke little English, the restaurant was quite novel for its time as it was a rotating one based on the 34th floor, rotating a full 360 degrees in 23 minutes, I can remember my mother in law at one stage had to excuse herself to visit the ladies powder room. When she exited we were nowhere to be seen, as we had travelled some 90 degrees further on, the mother in law perhaps felt we had abandoned her!
Ronald E Collins ©
In the 1930s and forties cinema was booming, there was no television and the only place to see a film was the cinema. Many many people became involved in the medium and there were many small cinema circuits, as well as the major ones such as Odeon, Gaumont British and ABC. Here are a few of some small cinema circuits, with some of the cinemas they ran.
John Frederick Wood ran several cinemas around the Liverpool area, which included the Mayfair Aigburth Road, the Plaza Birkenhead and the Abbey Wavertree. His company went under the name Bedford Cinemas (1928) Ltd. His grandson the late David Wood took over the running of the Woolton, Liverpool from the Godfrey family, who ran Cheshire County Cinemas. The head office for the Godfrey circuit was the Empress cinema Runcorn. Offices were at the back of the Empress. As well as Cheshire, they ran cinemas in Widnes, which at that time was Lancashire, later becoming Cheshire. Their cinemas included the Plaza Widnes, the Empire Widnes and the Regal, Northwich.
Another small circuit based in Liverpool was Regent Enterprises run by Philip Hamner. Regent Enterprises covered several companies including Byrom Picture Houses. They ran several cinemas, including the Grand Frodsham and the Tivoli Buckley. After closure, both the Grand and Tivoli went over to bingo for a short period. The Grand was demolished but the Tivoli is still standing as a night spot.
In Burnley, Lancashire most cinemas were run by New Empire (Burnley) Ltd. Cinemas included the Empress, Imperial, Pentridge, Grand and Tivoli. Cheshire Picture Halls Ltd ran several around the Birkenhead area, including the Regal Bebington. When I started in the cinema back in 1964 I worked for independent operator Hutchinson’s from Burnley. It was the Palace Warrington, that had once been a theatre. The small circuit ran the Astra cinemas, including the Astra Rhyl, which had been the Odeon. In London there was London and District Cinemas, run by a R B Wainwright. They ran the Capital Epsom, their headquarters, the Plaza, Plumstead, the Pavilion Aylesbury and several others. Another was London and Provincial Cinemas Ltd. Their theatres included the Ritz, Tonbridge and Savoy Folkstone.
Another Liverpool circuit was the Levy Circuit, based in Bold Street. Managing director was Alfred Levy. The companies went under Liverpool Cinema Feature Film Co Ltd and London Palace (1921) Ltd. Theatres included the Futurist, Lido, Scala, the Claughton picture House and the Futurist Birmingham.
There are far too many circuits to mention here, but most of them have now gone. Others included, the HD Moorhouse circuit, the Monseigneur News Theatres, Matlock Cinemas Ltd, Ben Kay’s Circuit, Hull Cinemas Ltd and the AS Hyde Circuit.
David A Ellis © chestercinemas.co.uk
Roger Shone has so much cinema memorabilia and information on Chester’s cinemas. Here we see a piece of P.C.T. carpet. The initials standing for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres, who built Chester’s first “Super” cinema which was to be named THE REGENT, in Brook Street. However, the company was taken over and the cinema opened as the GAUMONT PALACE. Lots of Gaumonts had this carpet laid down, and Roger, of course, has pieces of this rare carpet.
Robin Vidgeon was born in London in August 1939 and joined the film industry in 1956. For many years he was the focus puller for Douglas Slocombe, first working with him on the low budget horror movie Circus of Horrors (1960). His last two films with Slocombe were Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He went on to become a director of photography on several films including Hellraiser.
He rarely shoots now, and has turned his hand to teaching cinematography.
Click the above frame to watch “Raiders of the Lost Ark” trailer
How long was the shoot on Raiders?
It was long, around fourteen weeks, and it was a very complicated film. Steven Spielberg was wonderful and enthusiastic. I have kept in touch with him ever since.
What films did you work on as a focus puller?
There were many, including The Servant (1963), directed by Joseph Losey, who was one of my favourite directors. Fred Ziinnemann and Spelberg are another two. My first with Douglas Slocombe was Circus of Horrors shot at Beaconsfield Studios. The circus sequences were shot on Clapham Common. It was Billy Smart’s circus. Anton Differing, the lead was a lovely man to work with. I also worked with him on The Blue Max (1966).
You have worked on a number of TV productions, do you have a favourite?
I think the Frost series with David Jason. I think I did seven of them. We worked five days a week from 8am – 7pm and each episode took six weeks to make, which included preparation. Everyone on the series was wonderful.
Why did you not do the third Indiana picture with Douglas Slocombe?
I left to operate and do lighting.
What was the first feature you lit?
It was The Penitent, shot in Mexico over eight weeks, but I had been doing commercials, promos, and a couple of TV dramas before that.
Click the above frame to watch “August” trailer
What film did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed August (1996) directed by Anthony Hopkins. It was his first film as a director. He was very tired near the end of filming because we were in north Wales for eight weeks where he was also rehearsing and acting at Theatre Clwyd in Mold. I think Hopkins is extraordinary.
What is your opinion on digital cinematography?
It doesn’t matter, my lighting technique is the same.
You worked with director Sidney Hayers on the TV series The Professionals. He directed Circus of Horrors – had you not seen him since?
No, he was a very funny brilliant editor/ director, mainly editor, having been at Ealing Studios in that capacity. He had a very good sense of humour and I was very lucky to work with him. We called him Sid. We shot the Professionals at Teddington.
Finally, did you find it nerve- racking in your early days of lighting?
Students ask me, ‘How do I light a set.’ I can’t tell them that. I have got to walk on a set and the set speaks to you. The only reason you are standing there is because the director has seen something you did before and wants you to do it again. Fortunately I have never found it nerve-racking.
David A Ellis © chestercinemas.co.uk
from~ RACHEL CROSS..
Chester Film Society has been going since 1970 and kept screening films during the years when Chester had no city centre cinema. We’re back with another season beginning on 11th September, showing at St Mary’s Creative Space, Storyhouse and the Grosvenor Museum. Full season details here: chesterfilmfans.co.uk
At the cinema we can escape into a world of make believe for a few hours, helping us to forget our reality. The machines that help us dream are the projectors that throw a beam of light on to a screen. There were many makes of projector, and other equipment designed to take us into another world.
One popular British made projector was the Kalee, made in Leeds by Kershaws. They made a range of machines, which included Kalee 8, 11 and 12. They also manufactured carbon arc lamps, including the Vulcan and Regal. Kalee merged with Gaumont and in 1947 produced the popular Kalee 21 machine. This was usually installed on a base known as the elephant’s foot. Gaumont Kalee also produced two arc lamps, the President and Lightmaster, which usually accompanied the 21. They also produced a Kalee 20 version. This was fitted with round spoolboxes. The 21 with square boxes. The gate mechanism on this machine and the 20 could be removed for cleaning. These at the time of release were regarded as state of the art. The framing handle (racking) was at the front of the machine and you had to be careful when framing as your hand could go in front of the lens. The Sound system to accompany this equipment was usually Gaumont Kalee Duosonic sound. Most Gaumont cinemas were equipped with the 21. Before this many were equipped with the Gaumont Eclipse projector. Some installed the Magnus machine. The 21 machine was used for previewing 35mm material at the BBC. It was housed at Ealing previews, Centre House previews and at Television Centre. The BBC was also equipped with 35mm and 16mm Baur equipment.
Ross was another popular machine and was used by the ABC circuit. Some theatres linked the RCA sound system to them and others Western Electric sound. Usually, the carbon light source was provided by Peerless Magnarc. Ross was another machine that the BBC installed. At Maida Vale there were two, which were used while the soundtrack was being recorded on tape for radio broadcasts. There was also a machine at Alexandra Palace, where at the time, the open university were based.
British Thomson Houston (BTH) based in Rugby were also makers of projectors. The Odeon chain were equipped with these, and in the thirties they installed the type B projector with the BTH type C arc lamp. In 1947 the Single unit projector assembly (SUPA) was installed in many Odeons, and elsewhere. The downside, for some was you couldn’t bolt on a separate sound head or arc lamp, these were part of the unit. It also had a curved gate, which some say affected focusing. The take up for some reason went anti clockwise.
In the 1960s Odeon cinemas switched to the Italian made Cinemecanica projector. There is a range of these machines including the 35mm only Victoria 5, the dual gauge 35/70mm Victoria 8 and the dual gauge Victoria 10.
Other 70mm offerings are the Philips DP70 and 75. The 70 Was the only projector to win an Oscar.
David A Ellis © chestercinemas
Prynea Gregory, or as most friends and colleagues know her as Prue, was a familiar face and one of the first people who would greet you at the cash desk or sweet kiosk in the main entrance of Chester’s Odeon. She met her husband Terry at the cinema, and next year they will celebrate their Golden Wedding