On the 6th September 2014, Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE, Patron of the Plaza Community Cinema Crosby, Liverpool, was in attendance, when the cinema celebrated its 75th birthday with the screening of “Gone with the Wind”.

Sir Sydney, who sadly passed away on the 14th December helped them obtain the film “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, their first screening on July 18th 1997, after the renovation of the theatre. I had the pleasure of chatting to him in the foyer. Here is what he said about obtaining the film for the Plaza.

“I got a phone call, out of the blue from one Jan Dunn, who said, I understand that you are a trouble-shooter and a fixer and you know about the British cinema industry, could I come and see you, and she did. The cinema was renovated and for the opening they wanted a box office smash hit. The film that everybody was talking about was Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and I was asked if it was possible to get it.

“I phoned Percy Livingstone, who was the chief of 20th Century Fox. He said, Sydney, you understand the barring system. The big halls have the first call.

“I then phoned Sir Richard Attenborough, who had been a friend for many years. I asked if there was anything I could do. He said, you can wait for a few hours until the offices open in Los Angeles and let me speak to a friend of mine and I’ll phone you back. He phoned me back and said, Steven Spielberg said that it is fine. They were so appreciative at the Plaza.”


David A Elliscopyright


Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE, who passed away in December 2022 was a notable figure in the world of film. With his brothers he ran a company in Cricklewood London called Samuelsons, hiring out film equipment.

The company was known and respected worldwide. Sir Sydney became the first British Film Commissioner.

Here he fondly recalls his first job at the Luxor cinema Lancing.

“For the first four weeks at the Luxor I wasn’t allowed to do any rewinding. This fourteen-year-old lad spent his time washing the floors, polishing the brass work and dusting before the chief, who was a perfectionist as far as projection was concerned would teach me how to rewind.

” You wouldn’t think there was much to rewinding. You were taught that when rewinding you hold one edge of the film as it’s wound against the inside edge of one of the sides of the spool. The reason for that was that there was no ridging in the reel of film when you finished rewinding, it was flat.


” Eventually I officially became a rewind boy. No self-respecting rewind boy would not have cuts to his fingers and I had a few.  I don’t think in my day a rewind boy was called a fourth projectionist, but I was number four in the box.

” It was a very strange situation because the south coast became a defence area, we were expecting a German invasion at any moment. The effect of that was that the number in the population reduced regularly because you could leave the area but you couldn’t take up residence in the area. Business at the cinema was shocking. If we got fifty people on a Saturday night, we were lucky. It was a nine hundred and ninety seat brand new cinema.

” There was a terrible shortage of labour because there was massive call up of young people. When the second projectionist left the cinema, it was difficult to get a replacement. However, the first time that happened they did manage to get a replacement, I can’t remember where from but he was a very helpful guy.

“On the chief’s day off, which was a Friday, the second projectionist showed me everything. This was without any knowledge of the chief. I remember the red-letter day when he let me do a changeover from one projector to the other. That was a big event in my career. The chief knew nothing about that.

Due to war time conditions, there was a shortage of carbons. Some were imported from America because cinema going was considered to be very important for moral.

” By the summer of 1940 I had picked up from the second on Friday’s secretly how to run the box. I was only fourteen and had only six months experience but the chief never knew how much I had been taught from the second in that short period of time.

“After I had been there a few months my father suggested I asked for a rise. I was on ten shillings a week and after asking for an increase I was on twelve shillings and sixpence a week.

“The second decided to leave so we were one short. After an argument the chief walked out followed by the third. After the walkout I was left on my own. The time was getting close to opening. I went down and gently knocked on the manager’s door. I said to him, I just wondered sir what we will do because it is getting on for half past one and there are no projectionists here. He said, I’m doing my best. I am trying to get someone from the Regal. Don’t bother me, I am doing my best, if we are late starting, then we are late starting.

” I said, if you would like me to, I could get it started. The manager said what do you mean. I said, I know how it’s all done and I can do it if you’d like me to. He said, if you think you can do it Samuelson then go and do it. So, on my own I ran that show for one and a half days aged fourteen. After one and a half days they got a replacement chief.  I was then upgraded to joint third projectionist, which must have been cheaper than having a second and a third. After being made joint third, my salary shot up to twenty-two shillings and sixpence a week.

“Then the doorman was called up so we had no commissionaire. He would do jobs in the morning and one of those jobs was to change the lettering on the front of the canopy. The other job he did was put posters up. The cinema had shops either side of the entrance. They were not in use due to the war and were boarded up. So, the space was used for posters. At the Luxor there were three programmes a week, Sunday for one day, Monday, Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday Friday Saturday. As there was now no one else to put up the posters I volunteered to put them up. Because I did this I got another two shillings and sixpence a week.

” At the Luxor we had twin turntables. Behind the house tabs or curtains there was a festoon, which went up and down. There was lighting at the top and the bottom and a different colour could be used for the top and bottom. We had a  double slide projector and two Ernemann projectors”.


Sydney went on to show films in the Midlands before moving into the world of production. He worked in editing and cameras before setting up his company.

He was one of the cameramen who filmed the 1953 Coronation.

He says he just managed to capture the moment the crown was being lowered on the head of the Queen because he had problems with his camera.

He also worked on the show Candid Camera and was the cameraman that shot the episode where a car had no engine.

Sir Sydney was connected with BAFTA and was a great friend of actor and director Sir Richard Attenborough CBE, who became Lord Attenborough. He was also a close friend of director Sir David Lean CBE. Sir Sydney was a subject on the show ‘This is Your Life’.

I did several interviews with Sir Sydney and he kindly wrote a foreword for my second book ‘In Conversation with Cinematographers’, published by American publisher Rowman & Littlefield.



David A Elliscopyright