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Watching films for a living in Great Yarmouth? Yes, please!

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 December 2018

A morning at the movies: young picture-goers at the Regent in 1962, celebrating the 16th anniversary of the formation of the ABC Minors

A morning at the movies: young picture-goers at the Regent in 1962, celebrating the 16th anniversary of the formation of the ABC Minors

Archant

As an ardent film fan, my first reaction was envy. Fancy being paid to watch movies for a living! However, second thoughts swiftly prevailed.

Luxurious: the Regent's downstairs interior as it once looked.Luxurious: the Regent's downstairs interior as it once looked.

The downsides to a projection room career? Well, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston’s cinema numbers have reduced to two, so job opportunities were diminishing.

In addition, I would not have been seated comfortably throughout, the screen would be viewed through a small aperture, I could not enjoy a film uninterrupted because of non-stop concentration and necessary demands like changing reels, technical equipment was becoming more and more sophisticated as the decades passed, my ability to fix glitches swiftly while an audience became impatient was non-existent...

Also, I could not hide my eyes during scary sequences!

But I was hooked when a correspondent told me about his on-line YouTube offering Dave’s Digital Movies - Memories of a Cinema Projectionist, five short episodes recalling his career in Great Yarmouth from 1959 until 1987, starting at the Empire, then moving to the Regal, and spending the next 27 years transferring between Regal and Regent.

The Regal corner, looking down Regent Road past Electric House. This mock-Tudor building was demolished in 1974, the Regal/Cannon in 1989.The Regal corner, looking down Regent Road past Electric House. This mock-Tudor building was demolished in 1974, the Regal/Cannon in 1989.

The down-side to this YouTube opportunity is that viewers need a computer and internet access.

Sadly, all those cinemas are long-gone. Some buildings remain, but are no longer cinemas.

Only two cinemas do survive: the multi-screen Hollywood (ex-Royal Aquarium) and the re-born Gorleston Palace.

Often have I noted that coincidences occur regularly in this column.

The elegant classic-look front of the Regent partly obscured by bingo signs after it ceased being a cinemaThe elegant classic-look front of the Regent partly obscured by bingo signs after it ceased being a cinema

Dave’s films include the ABC Minors’ catchy anthem sung by youngsters at their Saturday matinees...and a few days earlier regular correspondent Robin Hambling, of Lawn Avenue, Yarmouth, brought me an ABC Minors lapel badge and picture card album (with cigarette-card star portraits filling all ten slots)!

East Norfolk resident Dave - keeping his identity confidential - has edited together his own photographs, memorabilia, 35mm and 8mm film frames and clips to produce “a personal record of my interest in cinema, and put all of my collection in one place.”

The film is not all facts and figures, nor is it too technical, but it is a nostalgic reminder of Yarmouth cinemas we patronised in decades long past.

The five films run for 25 minutes but also provide access to other Dave-produced items.

He says: “Many sections could have a wider appeal, but I think dedicated film and cinema enthusiasts from the Yarmouth area would be interested in seeing the old photograph sequences.

“Unfortunately, many young folk don’t remember the Regal/ABC Theatre - it has been gone for 30 years now!”

Whereas the purpose-built 1500-seat Regal/ABC was modern, opened in 1934, the 1679-seat Regent established 20 years earlier had a sumptuous elegance based on a classic French style, with boxes.

“One day an architect arrived, armed with rolls of drawings, to convert it to three screens,” recalls Dave.

“He showed me the drawings, but unfortunately the downstair projectors were placed directly behind the pillars holding up the balcony.

“I helped him to take measurements of the pillars’ positions. Then off he went, never to be seen again!”

Dave’s movies include shots of the Regal being demolished to make way for the Market Gates shopping precinct and bus station; of that cinema/theatre’s one-time manager, award-winning Jack Hare, a good friend of mine; of it’s “Stage Door” sign being presented as a memento to the landlady of the nearby Theatre Tavern - a popular spot for performers and staff - who had requested it.

Times have changed, modern technology eliminating projection room systems to which Dave was long accustomed.

His look at the Hollywood underlines that progress: handling heavy reels containing thousands of feet of film and regularly changing them seamlessly in the projectors during a screening have been replaced by one hard-drive cassette controlled by a computer mouse!

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