Comments from Sharkbytes

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Sharkbytes commented about 20th Century Cinema on Jun 18, 2011 at 4:00 am

Quite nostalgic to see a picture of the 20th Century. Thank you Ken Roe (who does so much on other cinema sites to keep alive memories of the days when cinemas were special places). I managed the 20th Century for a couple of years from 1968. We had three changes of programme weekly and a similar booking-load at the Lido Drive-In which also came under the control of the 20th Century. The theatre became a gospel church and is now I believe a car showroom. I would like to think there are at least some pictures around the walls of when the 20th was a brightly lit magnet to young people when there was not much else to do in Lusaka. Terry Sharkey

Sharkbytes commented about His Majesty's Theatre on Jun 18, 2011 at 3:40 am

I was assistant manager at His Majesty’s in Johannesburg in 1972. I remember it fondly., Robbie the General Manager had been there many years and was himself a colourful and memorable personality. Mr Small was the Circuit Controller whose brother Lou, by coincidence was in a similar position with Rank in Great Britain where I had come from. Those pictures (link above)show what a fine building it was . I went from there to manage the Regent . I haven’t been back to South Africa since 1972 but I get a wave of sadness to think its been replaced by a chain store. I’m lost for words. Terry Sharkey

Sharkbytes commented about Coronet Theatre on Nov 8, 2007 at 3:36 am

Hi Melvyn, this is Terry Sharkey, Manager at the Coronet (Gaumont) for a few years from 1967 (Not 1965 as I said above). I recall Vincent Tildesley with great affection. He was a character with a long family entertainment background. His brother was (I believe) Peter Haddon who had a theatre company for many years at the beautiful Victorian Wimbledon Theatre. The Lisbon Story was on stage at London’s Hippodrome (Now Talk of the Town) Leicester Square from June 1943 and Vincent Tildesley’s Eight Royal Mastersingers are listed among the principals with Patricia Burke and Noele Gordon. Singers were drawn from such ranks as D’Oyley Carte Opera. Fans can find Vincent and his singers’ version of Pedro on Parlophone F1993 (78rpm) and an EP on SCXSP652. Robinson Cleaver is on the organ. Stirring stuff – if anyone still has a machine to play it!

Rita Swann was an Absolute Ace projectionist in the tiny projection room that was all the space that the ancient theatre conversion allowed. Audiences rarely think about that vital person in the Hollywood chain, only when things go wrong. When Rita was on watch they never did. Early experiments in automation in the sixties saw a thing called Projectomatic. (You’ll know it Melvyn) But for those unfamiliar with 2000 foot spools and mercury-arcs I’ll explain. Projectomatic had bits of silver sellotape stuck to the film- perforations which would trigger impulses to change-over the machines every 20 minutes, dim houselights, pull stage-curtains (remember when local cinemas had curtains!)and even put the lime on the ice-cream lady. (Remember ice-cream ladies?). Unfortunately its inventor had forgotten that projectionists wax prints to ease the film through the projector, and wax is a good insulant, so often preventing the impulse working. But with Rita things would always go like clockwork.

Oh dear. This note has turned into a book-chapter. But that’s the Coronet for you. Long may she prosper.

Sharkbytes commented about Coronet Theatre on Nov 30, 2005 at 6:28 am

Hi Ken. As a newbie here I don’t know how to email you. I think I may have moved on by the time you came to Classic. The Manager was my friend Marcus Wedge with whom like all local cinema managers we had very good relationship. Lending icecream, kiaora orange, getting drunk, that sort of thing. I think I met Martin. The Classic had Cinnemechanicas that we envied…though history shows that our ancient Kallees were the really “proper” grown up machines with popping arcs and clanking change-overs. That said I do know your name so perhaps paths crossed. Park Royal. Morden? Didn’t know many Classic mgrs. Terry Herold at Balham a notable exception. And Bryan Yeoman…But will save these names for email lest other readers are bored.

Sharkbytes commented about Coronet Theatre on Nov 30, 2005 at 4:50 am

I was Manager of the Coronet (then Gaumont, one of Rank Organisation’s mighty chain) for a couple of years from 1965. Despite the problems inherent in managing a theatre largely unchanged from its heyday in the 1890s when Irving, Bernhardt, Terry et al had trodden its boards I look back on it as an unique experience.

After twenty years of legitimate theatre (its performances always critiqued in no less an organ than The Times) it became a silent cinema. The original 1100+ seating was considerably lessened by the closure for safety reasons of the very steeply raked upper circle. (Seats had also been removed in the Dress (or lower) Circle to accommodate the projection beam from the adjacent Operating Box). That upper circle was a time-warp, the key had simply been turned in the doors four decades before.

By the time I arrived the cinema was ‘off-release’, the product-cream going to Rank’s Odeon Bayswater. This had the virtue of allowing me to have a hand in booking what audiences suggested. This was a time of continuous performances from 1.00pm till 11.00, double-feature and the ‘Look at Life’ magazine programme that had replaced Gaumont British News some years before.

That Sixties Notting Hill, of race-riots, flower-power and some extremely pungeant smoking is a far cry from the upmarket neighbourhood now. But I remember the Coronet with affection.
The box at stage OP which had been King Edward’s had by my time become nothing more than a popcorn storage cupboard.
I recall the extraordinary lesbian-paintings with which an unknown patron adorned the plaster scrolls in the Circle ladies one afternoon, (an unusually boring matinee perhaps?). Little masterpieces which decorum -and an agitated Regional Controller – dictated my painting over in white emulsion. They are probably still to be found if you scrape carefully. The stage was still a fully-equipped Victorian stage, the fly area still displaying old-fashioned sailor pegs used to secure the ropes of flying scenery. Old war-time posters disclosed its understage area to have been a WW2 air raid shelter.
And it had a ghost. I remember Peter Hall, then Manager of the Rank flagship theatre, Odeon Leicester Square, seeking me out at a press show expressly to ask if I had experienced the spectre (which I had) and was identical to his experience some thirty years earlier when he too had managed the theatre.

I am glad that the Coronet survives in a list of diminishing silver screens. Long may it do so.