If You Build It, They Will Come.
September 1st, 2019 by Andrew Poole
What an amazing response to my first blog post, thank you to everyone who read it and took the time to comment.
Our family have been running the Pavilion since October 1993, but our time in “cinema” began long before then.
Over the coming months, I thought it would be nice to share how we came to be involved in running cinemas.
Think of it as our X-Men Origins story.
I won’t assign characters to family members, I’ll leave that up to your imagination. (Although I’m pretty sure I’d be Wolverine.)
Before we begin, here’s my Dad, Eddie Poole, next to one of the original projectors used here in the Pavilion.
Let’s start right at the beginning, when my Dad was knee high to a box of popcorn himself…
Picture this; it is the early 1940’s, and you’re in the living room of Mr & Mrs Poole (my grandparents) in Lulworth Avenue in Preston, Lancashire.
It’s a red brick pre-war terraced house.
The coal fire is burning away, there’s no gas central heating, there’s no TV that far north in the country yet.
The floor is hardwood with a rug that doesn’t quite reach each wall, there’s a couple of wooden seats and then there’s the comfy couch.
You can smell my grannie’s famous Irish stew cooking from the kitchen.
But there’s a huge white table cloth hung on one wall and a 9.5mm Pathescope hand crank projector situated on a table against the other wall. The projector lamp is powered by a bicycle battery.
My dad is about 8 years old, and had already fallen madly and completely in love with ‘cinema’. With help from his parents, he would hire films by mail order from a monthly magazine called “Amateur Cineworld”.
He would show these films to his friends, for a fee!
If you wanted to sit on the floor, it was free, it was a halfpenny to sit on one of the hard chairs, but if you wanted to watch the film in supreme comfort on the couch, the price of admission was a full penny.
Talk about premium VIP upgraded seats, long before any of the chains thought of it.
My Dad’s love of cinema, and his determination to provide the full cinematic experience for his friends was so strong, he made many other alterations to the living room.
He created an entire proscenium surrounding the screen. He had working tabs (curtains) so he could open and close them at the start and end of a show.
And as he got a little older and his science lessons at school covered electricity and how varying degrees of resistance can affect the brightness of a light bulb, he built his own light dimmer.
Here comes the science bit…
Now I hope you’re sitting down, and if you’re an electrician, you may want to have a stiff drink sitting within easy reach, because this is going to shock you (pun intended).
Dad learned that a salt solution of water is a conductor of electricity. If you have two terminals sitting in a solution, the current between the two terminals increases or reduces depending on how close to each other those terminals are.
So, in order to create a dimmer for the living room ceiling light my dad did the following:
- Removed the light switch cover
- Disconnected the feed and return cables
- Lengthened those cables to reach his salt solution in the jam jar
- Placed one terminal (a six inch nail!) at the bottom of the jam jar
- Attached the other terminal (another six inch nail!) to a block of wood, suspended over the jam jar
- Created a lever system so he could lower or raise the positive terminal into or out of the jam jar
By lowering the positive terminal into the jam jar, he slowly reduced the resistance between the two terminals, thereby increasing the voltage to his mum and dad’s living room light, creating a lighting dimmer. Out of wood. And salt solution. And jam jars and nails for terminals, and what must have been an extraordinary amount of luck that he didn’t set the entire house on fire.
But it wasn’t without incident; he blew the light fittings out the ceiling and a few fuses before he realised he had the live and neutral connected together.
And just to add to the presentation, he repeated the entire process for the stage lights which would light up the curtains. It was, to all intents and purposes, a fully fledged “Cinema”.
It’s all different, but the same…
I’d love to say it’s all done a lot differently now.
And of course, we don’t use jam jars and blocks of wood anymore, but the truth is the principle of creating a “presentation” has not changed in 110 years of cinema.
Unless you were a friend of my dad back in 1940, if you wanted the full theatrics of a masked screen, a large format image, perfectly timed lights and a darkened room to watch a movie, the only place to get that experience was in a cinema. Nothing in that respect has changed.
It’s no real surprise my dad’s first job was as a “rewind boy” at the local cinema.
As my blog progresses over the coming months, I’ll delve into more detail about Dad’s and the wider family’s involvement with cinema over the past 70 years.
I can’t wait to share it all with you.
For your viewing pleasure…
In my last blog I listed my top 5 favourite films, but there are so many great films out there that I thought each month I’d say a little bit about a film which almost made the list. There are a lot of them!
What will become clear is that I have a slightly warped idea of what makes a “great film”. But that’s what makes films great!
We all see a different film, and we all see films differently. What I like may not appeal to you, but if you find yourself bored one day, and you don’t fancy anything we’re running at the Pavilion – Shock! Horror! – see if you can find one of my suggestions on a streaming service.
First up is “The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)”.
Only for adults this one as it’s rated 18. Geena Davis and Samuel L Jackson embark on a trip to find Davis’s hidden past and encounter a team of bad guys hell-bent on stopping her. This is an action film full of snappy one liners and some absolute laugh-out-loud moments.
It contains one of my favourite scenes in a film ever, when Brian Cox complains about his wife’s dog paying “too much attention” at dislodging something from it’s rear end. It’s hilarious, trust me.
Taking a break from the family history books, next month I’ll recap the summer films and share some stats on what you came to see.
Thanks for reading!