Comments from Alan Baker

Showing 51 - 75 of 88 comments

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about ABC Coleshill Street on Aug 3, 2017 at 9:26 am

A couple of small points. As the 70mm kit came from the ABC Bristol Road (which was being converted to 3 strip Cinerama), the projectors were almost certainly DP70s rather than the later DP75. As for only having the 70mm kit for eighteen months, Allen Eyles ABC book says the Gaiety had the Midlands premiere of My Fair Lady, which would not have been until 1966.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about London Coliseum on May 17, 2017 at 8:46 am

Difficult for Mike Todd to appear, considering that he had been dead for ten years. Was it Mike Todd Jr.? This was the first 70mm presentation of Around the World in 80 Days in London, the 1957 – 1959 roadshow presentation at the Astoria, Charing Cross Road having been in 34mm (yes really).

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Prince Edward Theatre on May 1, 2017 at 5:58 am

All VistaVision films were advertised as being in VistaVision, and carried an on screen credit to that effect. The fact that they were standard 35mm vertical reduction prints was irrelevant, the process was promoted as Motion Picture High Fidelity as it produced sharper images than standard 35mm blown up to widescreen. Paramount’s recommended ratio for VistaVision was 1.85:1. London actually had two horizontal eight perf VistaVision venues, Paramount’s Plaza, Lower Regent Street and Rank’s Odeon Leicester Square (Rank had adopted VistaVision as a snub to 20th Century Fox who had taken their CinemaScope films away from the Rank circuits in a dispute over full ‘Scope installations and extended runs).

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Odeon Luxe London Leicester Square on Apr 17, 2017 at 6:17 am

Sorry, Fanatical, you may need even more medication. When Oklahoma! was shown at the Odeon Leicester Square in the 35mm CinemaScope version, it was the European premiere on September 6th 1956 and the run was not a roadshow, it was continuous with four shows a day. After eight weeks (a long run at the time) it transferred to the Odeon Marble Arch for a further twelve weeks. The Todd-AO 30 fps version of Oklahoma! opened at the newly DP70 equipped Metropole on December 26th 1959, the first appearance in the UK of the 70mm version. This was a roadshow presentation (i.e. two shows a day, advance booking). It ran for a fairly modest ten weeks.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Odeon Luxe London Leicester Square on Apr 10, 2017 at 11:07 am

Following the Royal Film Performance on February 26th 1962, West Side Story began its public roadshow run the next day at the Astoria, Charing Cross Road, not the Metropole. The Odeon didn’t run 70mm again until Lawrence of Arabia which opened on December 10th 1962. After eight weeks Lawrence transferred to the Metropole for a 98 week run!

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Gaumont State Kilburn on Apr 10, 2017 at 6:13 am

The drop wall dividing the rear stalls was brought forward to make a bigger bingo section. This still left a total of around 1,800 seats with the circle and remaining front stalls seating and live shows continued until the end, although some acts objected to playing to “the wall”. Rank’s Training Centre was located here and I was on an Assistant Manager’s course in the spring of 1979. Course manager was Keith Cheney, but Bill Weir took some sessions. WW, as he was referred to, moved on to the Dominion, Tottenham Court Road and then the Odeon Leicester Square. The projection box was located at the back of the dome and I remember being impressed at what looked like a near 45 degree projection rake!

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Royal Cinema on Apr 10, 2017 at 5:53 am

The first Odeon to be tripled was Glasgow, an expensive rebuild. Sutton Coldfield was the first of the much cheaper “drop wall” triplings which Rank applied to over fifty cinemas in the following three years.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Gaumont Bromley on Mar 19, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Rank had two cinemas in Bromley, the Gaumont and the Odeon. Until January 1959 there were separate weekly Odeon and Gaumont releases, but in that month Rank reorganised its cinemas into two new release streams, Rank release and National release. The best Odeons and Gaumonts were combined to form the Rank release, while the rest got the (usually) inferior National release. In Bromley the Gaumont took the Rank release, leaving the Odeon with the National. For years the Gaumont release had been generally inferior to the Odeon release, so this was a reversal of fortune for the Bromley cinemas. This, of course, only lasted for a couple of years as the Gaumont was sold off for redevelopment and the Odeon took the Rank release (the National release was in any case dying on its feet by this time).

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Cineworld Cinema - Harlow Queensgate on Mar 19, 2017 at 12:57 pm

The original auditoria here had raked flat floors. The stadium seating was achieved by building wooden stepped sections in the centre of the floor with passages either side for access. I know the manager and saw the work in progress. This method is very wasteful of floor space hence the marked reduction in seating capacity, though no doubt wider seats and increased seat pitch also played their part.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Odeon Preston on Feb 15, 2017 at 5:20 am

The picture is not that early! The car parked in front of the cinema is a Mk.1 Ford Consul, introduced in 1951. The cinema was renamed Gaumont in 1952, so there is a very short window for this picture to have been taken.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Cineworld Cinema - Harlow Harvey Centre on Jan 5, 2017 at 9:19 am

Through the good offices of a Cineworld friend, I was able to take a brief tour of this new cinema. Considering that it occupies space which used to be the upper floor of Tesco’s they have done a remarkable job of raising the roof and creating an impressively large space. The three auditoria that I saw were spacious and lofty with large screens which, of course, lack tabs or masking. Two of the three were proper 2.35:1 screens but the third was a 1.85:1 screen which was playing a ‘scope film stripped across the middle. Wheelchair provision is via a lift at foyer level which gives access to projection level where separate boxes with a few seats and wheelchair space are provided alongside the projection boxes which are small separate boxes for each screen with the space which would have been occupied by a full box taken up with storage, staff rooms and office space. The seating is on the wasteful “stadium block” principle with access passageways at either side leading to the screen end from which one ascends aisles alongside the seating block. Presumably wall to wall seating with access from a central vomitory would be too expensive, but would have increased the capacity markedly. At least the method used gives good sightlines. The foyer and lobby areas are typically murky (as presumably are the auditoria, I didn’t see them with houselights up) which no doubt saves money on cleaning and maintenance as you cannot see the grime which will develop.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Cineworld Cinema - Harlow Queensgate on Jan 5, 2017 at 5:56 am

The Cineworld here has now been joined by a brand new 6 screen Cineworld on the upper level of the Harvey Centre in the town centre. This opened on December 9th 2016.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Cineworld Cinema - Harlow Queensgate on Dec 19, 2016 at 7:13 am

Seating capacities in this cinema were massively reduced when stadium seating was installed. Biggest is now around 240 seats.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Rex Cinema on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:23 pm

The cinema closed in 1961! The Long and the Short and the Tall went on general release in North East London from March 12th 1961.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Empire Theatre on Sep 15, 2016 at 8:29 am

The former manager of this theatre, Bill Geoghegan,(later of Odeon Bury and Odeon Barking) recently died at the age of 89. I well remember his stories of the winter of 62/3, wading through the snow to bank the previous days takings of about 3s/6d.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Number 8 Community Arts Centre on Aug 25, 2016 at 6:50 am

My brother and his wife live in Pershore and have visited this venue several times. On my last visit we all went to see a film and I was kind of expecting something akin to a 16mm presentation in the village hall. I was pleasantly surprised to find an inviting foyer with licensed bar leading to a spacious auditorium with stadium seating in two sections. The “stalls” section can be rolled back under the circle section in order to use the floor area for alternative activities. There is a good sized “proper” 2.35:1 screen with variable side masking, so a scope feature is not seen on a smaller screen than the ads and trailers, as in many multiplexes. Sadly, no tabs were in use, but the excellent digital projection was overseen by a projectionist (remember them?).

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Cineworld Cinema - Leicester Square on Aug 9, 2016 at 12:18 pm

As far as rebranding is concerned, the entire building is called the Empire and Cineworld only own (or lease) the cinema part. I can’t imagine that the Empire name will come off of the frontage. If so, what do Empire Cinemas call the Haymarket cinema? Maybe they can go back to calling it the Carlton.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Essoldo Manor Park on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:36 am

My sister and I made our one and only visit to this cinema (our regular haunts were the Odeon Gants Hill and the State Barkingside)in April 1962 as it was the only place locally showing It’s Trad Dad. I vividly remembered the supporting film, a Japanese sci-fi effort, but it took me years to figure out what it was. It turned out to be Battle in Outer Space and I now have both films on DVD so can recreate the double bill! The Essoldo takeover presumably made this a Fox circuit house between 1954-1958 and the only place in the Ilford area showing Fox CinemaScope films regularly (I believe the State Barkingside showed some but ABC would not commit it to the Fox output.)

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Lumiere Cinema on Jun 2, 2016 at 12:12 pm

I visited this cinema regularly in the late 70’s/early 80’s and this was around the time that the original floating screen was replaced. It wasn’t a case of tabs being fitted in front of the original screen, a stage was built and a normal screen frame with variable side masking was installed (the floating screen had swivelling masking which folding around for wide screen) and a little later the tabs were installed in front of this new set up. I remember a conversation with a Rank engineer who told me that they had installed Dolby Stereo but had taken it out because “it didn’t work” (!).I recall seeing a double bill of The Wild Geese and The Sea Wolves there, with The Wild Geese in excellent 4 track mag and The Sea Wolves (a Dolby Stereo film) in mono!

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Curzon Soho on Jun 2, 2016 at 11:38 am

The opening film here, Gigi, was not in 70mm. Gigi was in 35mm CinemaScope. The practice of blowing up 35mm to 70mm didn’t begin until 1963 and was initially applied only to Panavision films (that company having devised the process). The problem with doing a long roadshow run of a non-British film is that you would run into quota problems. When Gigi transferred to the Ritz it eventually had to come off because of quota and they actually advertised that that was why its run was ending.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about West End Cinema on May 26, 2016 at 10:28 am

This is a long time after the original post, but Cleopatra was not cut for the West End! The UK release, including the Dominion Tottenham Court Road, was the 3hr 12 min. version rather than the original 4hr 8min cut. As far as I know the longer version was never shown theatrically in the UK, but can be enjoyed in all its glory on Blu-ray.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Odeon Luton on May 26, 2016 at 9:21 am

Bingo took over the Odeon after the ex-Gaumont burned down and Rank applied to have the licence transferred. The cinema had been profitable, but not as profitable as the eyes down brigade.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Ritz Cinema on May 26, 2016 at 9:17 am

This was one of the many cinemas used for pop package shows in the 1960’s, and notorious as the site of one of P.J.Proby’s on stage trouser splitting incidents, which led to him being banned from all ABC theatres!

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Futurist Cinema on May 12, 2016 at 11:54 am

Mike Todd did indeed die fairly young (he was 48), but it was in a plane crash!

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Odeon Sheffield on May 11, 2016 at 9:30 am

For just under two years (July 1969 to June 1971), Sheffield had four excellent 70mm screens, The Odeon, the ABC and the two new auditoria at the Gaumont. Contrast that with today’s pathetic offerings.