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Documentary shows the town’s cinema history

A new documentary celebrates the history of cinema in Great Yarmouth and across the county.

Narrated by Sir John Hurt and focusing on Norfolk’s many rural, urban and coastal towns, The Final Reel takes an affectionate and entertaining look at our nations’ obsession with cinema.

The film features interviews and archive material and offers an entertaining overview of the history of cinema-going in Norfolk and a snapshot of cinema-going in England today.

It also asks the question; is this the final reel in the story of cinema or just another chapter in its ongoing story?

Produced by Norwich film education charity, Cinema City Education, and directed by local filmmaker Jonathan Blagrove of Coda Films, The Final Reel is part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Norfolk at the Pictures project which aims to preserve and share the county’s rich cinema heritage.

Guy Martin, Manager of Cinema City Education said: “I hope audiences are going to be as impressed as I was by the film. Norfolk has played a starring role in the evolution of cinema since films were first screened in the county as far back as 1897 and The Final Reel is a wonderful tribute to the people who have made the cinema such an important part of our shared social history.”

From September 9 Cinema City in Norwich will be screening a new feature-length documentary which celebrates Norfolk’s love-affair with the cinema.

A special Q&A screening will also be held on Saturday, September 10 featuring a Q&A with the documentary’s director.

The film will be shown on the last night of the Great Yarmouth film festival on October 5.

A Norfolk at the Pictures touring exhibition will be at the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth from October 27 to Thursday 10 November also.

Yarmouth’s old cinemas:

Great Yarmouth was at the forefront of cinema exhibition from its beginning, boasting an impressive number of cinemas over the past century and even earlier, which have included the UK’s first purpose-built cinema venue and several beautiful ‘picture palaces’.

Travelling showmen first brought moving pictures to Yarmouth during the Easter Fair, and Bioscope machines were installed as early as 1904 in the Winter Gardens by the Wellington Pier. The majority of the town’s cinemas opened before and during the First World War – many of the buildings survive to this day.

• The Gem/Windmill

This is reputed the country’s first purpose-built cinema, built in 1908. It was known as the ‘Palace of 5,000 lights’ as its facade and two domed towers were covered in bulbs. Great Yarmouth Council insisted that men and women sit on opposite sides of the aisle as they sat all day in the dark. It was bought by the Jay family in 1938.

• Hippodrome

Built as a circus venue, a cinema screen was fixed across the 42ft diameter circus ring. It is one of the country’s oldest cinema venues. It is owned by Peter Jay who provides a backstage tour of the building in The Final Reel film

• The Regent/ABC

This venue was built by local cinema entrepreneur Frederick Holmes Cooper in 1914 in the style of Louis XIV and was an ornate picture palace, accommodating up to 1,679 patrons. It was bought by the ABC chain in 1982 and was the first cinema that Trevor Wicks worked at (now owner of the Hollywood Cinemas chain). Some of the cinema’s spectacular interior remains and is shown in The Final Reel film.


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