CINEMA IS RETURNING TO CHESTER’S CITY CENTRE
The new Chester PICTUREHOUSE cinema
Cheshire West and Chester Council have announced that PICTUREHOUSE is to be the operator of the new six-screen multiplex cinema within the Northgate development. The cinema chain, which is owned by Cineworld, has now exchanged contracts. Picturehouse, which was established in 1989, own and operate 23 cinemas and programme a further 45 venues across the UK – in places such as Bath, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London, Oxford and York . The Picturehouse Cinema will attempt to become a “destination” by incorporating a cafe/bar into the cinema and host live events alongside traditional blockbusters. The company pioneered live satellite events from around the world and is now a leading UK distributor of event cinema content, including plays from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Opera House, National Theatre.
Picturehouse managing director, Lyn Goleby, said: “We have wanted to operate a cinema in Chester for many years and this location in the heart of the city will give us a very central location to create a vibrant hub of film-related activity. Our programme will cover mainstream and world cinema.We look forward to the opening and hope that Picturehouse will make a big contribution to the life of the city centre. The six-screen cinema will provide more than 715 seats on the upper levels of the scheme, with a ground-level foyer and café bar opening onto the new Market Square and Hunter Street. The new multiplex cinema which will be opposite the new Storyhouse development where the present bus station is sited. Since the closure of the Odeon, Chester has been without a cinema in the city centre. The new cinema will be within the city walls, part of the entertainment hub of the rejuvenated Northgate area, and is anticipated to open in late 2019.
Although the opening of Chester’s has been postponed until the Spring 2017, the work continues on this major project at a brisk pace. Little now remains of the original interior, except for parts of the ceiling in the auditorium and circle lounge, although the planners have promised to put back in place as much of the original design as possible, which of course has to come up to today’s exacting specifications on materials used. Click here to watch the earlier arial shots of the construction
On the Renew website you can view the progress, and the major task of returning the building back to good condition. Amazingly the complete original balcony has been removed to allow for the upper level floor, which will in turn gives more height at ground floor level. The scheme has given the building a new lease of life which was desperately needed, the alternative would have been certain demolition. Ingeniously, the area has been transformed into a well promoted culture centre which leads through to the new theatre. One entrance to the approach of the theatre is via the original Odeon cinema proscenium (stage).
PLAZA CINEMA & THEATRE, Stockport
Roger Shone and David Ellis were fortunate to attend the opening of a similar project at the Plaza Stockport. By clicking on the button below, you are able to take a virtual tour of the building. The Plaza is not only a cinema, but has a full working stage which is put to full use with professional shows staged on a regular basis.The virtual tour gives an insight as to what can be done with careful thought when refurbishing these theatres. David and Roger highly recommend a visit to the Plaza.
The magnificent auditorium of The Plaza
Interestingly, Chester had a similar cinema. Perhaps a bias opinion, but much more tasteful than Stockport’s Plaza- The sheer size and opulence of the Chester Gaumont was a treat to visit. Whether it was to see a film or a stage show, for the Gaumont, unlike the ABC, had a full working stage with flying facilities. Regrettably, and shamefully.this superb venue was destined to become a bowling alley, then later a bingo hall.
Another familiar face with Odeon cinema goers over several decades. Joyce worked for Marks & Spencers until the late 1940s, when she began work at the Odeon. She really enjoyed her job as she was always interested in the films on the big screen. She became head usherette, then head of staff. She was one of the first people to greet customers as they entered the foyer, usually serving in the cash desk or kiosk.
Joyce retired in the mid 90s after completing forty five years of loyal service at Chester Odeon. She was the longest serving member of all the staff at this cinema.
In 1960 cameraman Ronald Collins moved to Movietone News, which was based in Soho Square and was part of 20th Century Fox. He was appointed by Paul Wyand, the assignment manager as an assistant cameraman and was given a six-month trial. Wyand had been Movietone’s chief cameraman and had written a book about the newsreel business and his life as a newsreel cameraman called ‘Useless if Delayed’.
Movietone opened for business in 1928 and it is likely that one of the first cameras was the Bell and Howell Eyemo. Another camera that was in use was the Wall camera, a sound on film system by Movietone. It later adopted under licence the Western Electric variable density system until Movietone went over to magnetic recording. The Wall camera recorded sound only nine frames ahead of the picture, which meant it had to be edited before it could be projected twenty frames ahead. The Wall had a four-lens turret, which could be rotated while shooting. The Newman and Sinclair camera followed. Another model used was the Cameflex by Éclair. This camera was used until Movietone News closed in 1979.
Collins first solo assignment meant he had a heavy ancient Newman and Sinclair camera to operate. His task was to provide two minutes of screen time of the Christmas lights in Oxford Street, London.
The Newman and Sinclair cameras had been in use from the early 1930s and were used on many documentaries. Stanley Kubrick used one on some sequences of ‘A Clockwork Orange’. As an assistant Collins worked alongside a chap named Norman Fisher, who was then chief cameraman for Movietone.
1963 saw Collins became a fully-fledged cameraman on a weekly wage of twenty-two pounds. With Fisher he worked on Movietone’s contribution to the TV programme ‘This Week’. Fisher and Collins were responsible for shooting whole sections of the programme. They were both engaged to shoot sequences for the hit TV cop series ‘No Hiding Place’, using a 35mm Arricord self blimped camera. Other work included filming documentaries to promote movies produced or distributed by 20th Century Fox. These included ‘The Longest Day’ and ‘The Sound of Music’.
Asked if there were any assignments that stood out, he said, “One that stands out was being invited to Windsor to shoot material for the Queen’s forty-second birthday with her family. That was a privilege. The film was in colour and that material was used by the BBC every night when their service was closing down.”
Collins was one of the cameramen that covered the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.
Until 1963 Movietone provided film for the United Press Movietone Television (UPMT) the first truly global television news service. Movietone cameramen were required to shoot some items in 16mm using the Paillard Bolex, the Bell and Howell silent cameras and Aurican sound camera.
From 1963-1967 Movietone continued to supply United Press International Newsfilm (UPIN) with 16mm films for the news service. Collins said that newsreel companies made a lot of commercials for television in the early days of independent television.
Often he would be a one-man band, operating, directing and doing all the other required skills. He said there were no set hours. It really depended on where the job was located. Sometimes it could be done in a day; sometimes you needed to stay in a hotel.
When going on an assignment how much film did he carry? “You were told by the editorial staff that we want two or three minutes of material depending on the importance of the story and if it was in black and white or colour. On 35mm you would always take two magazines to cover the story and maybe a third as a back-up.”
Collins gained a reputation for his work in sport. In 1968 he worked on the Mexico Olympic games and was DP on a number of feature documentaries. He was employed by Movietone for ten years, leaving in 1968 to do other freelance work. Between other work he carried on working for Movietone on a freelance basis for a further ten years. When working abroad did he hold on to the unprocessed film until getting back to England? “In the majority of cases we held on to the film until we got back because the stories abroad were mainly soft news stories – they weren’t what we called hard news stories.” Collins said he doesn’t regret one moment of it. He worked with about eight cameramen. One of them was the late Michael Samuelson, brother of Sir Sydney. “I was able, while training to pick up their best points,” he said.
Collins won two awards for his news work. In 1968 he won the World Newsreel Award in the general news category for a soft news story called ‘On the River’. In 1981 Collins was part of the film crew that filmed football sequences in the John Huston movie ‘Escape to Victory’. In October 1999 Collins was awarded a Fellowship of the British Kinematograph Sound and Television Society (BKSTS). It was for services and innovations provided to the film and television industries.
David A Ellis
A detailed account of Chester cinema newsreels is available on the CINEMAS page – FACTS tab