London cinema

ABC, Biograph, Essoldo, Gaumont, Odeon, Regal, Ritz, Roxy – the names feel resolutely English, attached to a time when we had a separate national cinema keeping smoky houses filled every night of the week.

But the films inside them slowly shifted from London to Hollywood and we no longer saw our own island lives represented on film. As schoolboys, we would pay our 6p to watch Passport to Pimlico, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Blue Lamp, The Ladykillers and Doctor in the House.

Later, with hopefully a girlfriend we watched (for some of the time!) The Knack… and How to Get It, Georgy Girl, Morgan!, Alfie, Blowup, I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname, Casino Royale, Poor Cow, Up the Junction, To Sir, with Love, and, featuring that archetypal London actor, Michael Caine – The Italian Job.

Our local Tesco supermarket was originally The Rex Cinema a typical suburban 1930’s suburban picture house. It opened a few weeks before the outbreak of World War II, closing on 27th June 1959. Ten years later, when we started to shop there, its semi-stadium plan with a raised seating area was still evident as the shop’s gangways had a distinct slope.

Today, apart from a few notable exceptions, the Electric in Notting Hill and the Phoenix in East Finchley spring to mind, all the chains offer a pretty soulless experience, more interested in selling food, than offering a night’s cinematic experience with the main feature, a second film and a documentary to enjoy..

Featured image: Phoenix cinema at night after the Centenary works were completed by Basil Jradeh (CC BY-SA 3.0).

3 thoughts on “London cinema”

    1. Love your description of the commissionaire: “Here was someone who would not be out of place in a Ruritanian comedy, yet he would be a man of some bearing usually, perhaps with a military background. He would wear fine gloves, and give everyone a civil and deferential greeting as they passed.”

      Liked by 1 person

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