Comments from Alan Baker

Showing 76 - 88 of 88 comments

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Astoria Theatre on May 4, 2016 at 6:06 am

The longest run at the Astoria was that first roadshow presentation, Around the World in Eighty Days, which ran for 106 weeks. West Side Story ran for 94 weeks with Paint Your Wagon next up at 79 weeks and then The Fall of the Roman Empire at 70 weeks. Nothing else ran for more than a year, next best being Half a Sixpence at 41 weeks. It is rather surprising that the Astoria’s fortunes declined so rapidly, especially in view of Rank’s expensive refurbishment in 1968. Even the Metropole, Victoria outlasted it.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Regent Cinema on Apr 26, 2016 at 7:43 am

I wonder where the projection box was located at the Regent. In 1955 major structural work was required to shorten the balcony to enable CinemaScope to be projected and in 1962 more work was required for the installation of 70mm to enable roadshows to play there and end the Astoria’s monopoly of 70mm presentations in Brighton.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Metropole Cinema on Apr 18, 2016 at 8:06 pm

By far the longest run at the Metropole during the roadshow era was Lawrence of Arabia, which transferred in from the Odeon Leicester Square after an eight week run there and played at the Metropole for a further 98 weeks (Feb 1963-Dec 1964). During this time it was the only place to see this film, which did not go on general release until April 1965.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about ABC Hanley on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:13 am

This debate may be of interest (to some), but it doesn’t have much to do with the poor old ABC Hanley! Actually, the film that led to the Rank/Paramount rift was a now forgotten Dean Martin/Shirley MacLaine comedy called All In a Night’s Work, which went out on the ABC circuit in June 1961, Breakfast At Tiffanys was not until November. MGM may have had a prolific output in it’s heyday, but like most Hollywood studios, it’s heyday was long gone by the late fifties. This didn’t stop MGM doing a deal with Rank in 1958 to give half of it’s output to the Rank circuits, which led to such plums as Hitchcock’s North By Northwest getting an Odeon release. They were even happy for some films to go out on the National circuit, such as the Doris Day/David Niven starrer Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and George Pal’s The Time Machine. It was the refusal of a National release for the awful remake of Cimarron in early 1961 which led to MGM going back to ABC for all their releases. Along with Paramount’s switch a few months later this more or less killed the National release.

The question of branding is problematical. ABC began rebranding it’s circuit as simple ABCs in the late fifties but it took years to complete the process. As for the television business, I doubt that many associated the two and as far as logos goes, the ITA specifically forbade ABC from using the cinema style logo for the TV station. Rank did not consider “Odeon” to be a “brand” as the Rank circuit included Odeons, Gaumonts and a few other non standard names, the only element of branding was that all cinemas displayed Rank’s gongman. It wasn’t until the mid eighties that a new MD, Jim Whittell, became obsessed with “the brand” and renamed all the remaining non Odeons, dispensed with the gongman and even had the company renamed from Rank Theatres Ltd. to Odeon Cinemas Ltd. There could hardly be brand loyalty in the cinema business as long as distributor alignments and barring dictated which cinema you had to go to to see a particular film, and this practice continued until the advent of multiplexes.

When I joined Rank in the 1970s, the prevailing attitude among managers was that we were a cut above ABC. To some extent this was a result of basking in the reflected glory of prestige West End operations, which ABC could not match, and many provincial cities (such as Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle), where ABC were in a markedly inferior position to Rank. The idea that anyone acquiring both circuits would have adopted the ABC name is highly unlikely, would you rename the Odeon Leicester Square the “ABC Leicester Square”?

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about ABC Hanley on Apr 10, 2015 at 11:06 am

In the post war years the distributor alignments were heavily in Rank’s favour. They had two circuits (Odeon and Gaumont until 1959, Rank and National 1959-61) and had the lions share of the product. Rank had 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, Columbia, United Artists, Disney and their own productions. ABC had Warner, MGM and their own ABPC productions. Between 1954 and 1958 Fox withdrew their product from the Rank circuits in a dispute over CinemaScope and set up their own fourth circuit using Essoldo, Granada and independents. In 1961 Paramount refused to have one of their films put out on the National release and switched all future releases to ABC. In 1972 Universal’s joint distribution operation with Paramount, Cinema International Corporation, began operating in the UK and Universal films switched to ABC. To describe ABC as more profitable than Rank is absurd. ABC spent fortunes on some of their multi screen conversions, which usually meant extended periods of closure (and thus lost revenue), while the declining market meant that they never saw a return on the investment which is why EMI switched to the cheaper drop wall system that had always been favoured by Rank. As for ABC as a brand, well, it hadn’t even been a brand until the early sixties, prior to which ABC cinemas operated under their original names (Regal, Ritz, Savoy etc.). The brand disappeared entirely during the Cannon years and when it reappeared it was as the discarded rump of the old circuit. In contrast, Odeon had a continuous presence in the market since the thirties (most of it under just one owner, unlike ABC), so it was not surprising that Cinven regarded it as the stronger.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about ABC London Road on Mar 31, 2015 at 9:28 am

The photos in Ken’s links appear to show a completely different auditorium to the photo heading the article.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Odeon Harlow on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:17 pm

The description of “single floor” and “rear stalls” is not accurate. The auditorium was laid out with a stepped stadium section at the rear housing wider seats with more leg room (3ft 3in) compared to the front stalls section (2ft 9in) and separated from it by a barrier. This stepped section became the location of the new cinemas after tripling, which meant that they inherited the greater legroom compared to the front stalls which became screen 1.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Safari Cinema on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:09 am

I have to say that I have never regarded the exterior of this cinema as “beautiful”. A vast overpowering presence on the street, not, of course, that the cladding was in any way an improvement!

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about ABC Harrow on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:04 am

This is, of course, not the real ABC Harrow (the former Dominion), that is listed as the Safari cinema. I wish that Cinema Treasures would list the name under which the cinema was best known, rather than the last name it operated under.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Odeon Nottingham on Mar 4, 2015 at 10:02 am

It is the ABC. Both now gone.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Odeon Hemel Hempstead on Mar 4, 2015 at 8:26 am

Prior to the deal for the Jarmans Field cinema, Odeon Cinemas MD Jim Whittel was planning to take the Odeon back from the bingo crowd and triple it along the lines of the very similar Odeon Harlow.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Odeon Bristol on Feb 4, 2015 at 9:32 am

While in general terms it may be said that the new cinemas of 1985 occupy the circle area, in fact the entire building was gutted and totally rebuilt within the original shell. The current cinemas are side by side and at ninety degrees to the original layout with the screens on the right hand side wall of the original auditorium.

Alan Baker
Alan Baker commented about Astoria Theatre on Dec 24, 2014 at 10:39 am

The Astoria most certainly did not show “Around the World in 80 Days” in 70mm! 70 mil did not appear in the UK until “South Pacific” opened at the Dominion in 1958. 80 Days was shown at the Astoria in 34 (yes FOUR)mm. This was a process called Cinestage involving an anamorphic print with a 1.56:1 squeeze giving a screen ratio of 2.2:1 (like Todd AO). The reason for the 34mm print was British quota. All cinemas had to show 30% British films in any one year, which would have precluded a long roadshow run. However, the rules only applied to 35mm film so 1mm was shaved off the print! Apparently at least twice during the run Board of Trade inspectors visited to make sure they really were using a 34mm print. Later, of course, 70mm presentations were also exempt from quota which is how cinemas like the Astoria, Dominion, Metropole and others could present long runs of “foreign” films. Unfortunately, some British films (notably “Zulu” were denied a 70mm run in the West end so that the film could contribute to quota obligations.