Thursday, 3 June 2010

News Cinemas

Does anyone remember news cinemas? They were small-scale affairs dotted about city centres, showing a continuous programme, on roughly an hourly loop, of newsreels, comedy shorts and travelogues - and, in contrast to the regular cinemas, you could just walk in off the street at any point and stay as long as you liked (theoretically - in practice, ruthless torch pointers ensured no serious overstays). It was always a high point of boyhood trips to London with my mother to drop in on a news cinema and enjoy whatever came up. The newsreels were splendidly gung-ho twilight of empire affairs, with rousing music, much lauding of British pluck and enterprise and a somewhat jocular attitude to johnny foreigner and his kind. Oddly I do remember seeing Laurel and Hardy in a newsreel report - presumably of a visit to Britain - but am not sure if I ever saw any of their shorts in a news cinema. Certainly I saw plenty of the Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello, and even at a tender age was not hugely impressed. The best of it for me were the cartoons - particularly as the news cinemas seemed to favour Chuck Jones over Disney (quite right too), so it was in the darkness of a news cinema that I first encountered Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner and co... In London there were still a few such establishments at least to the very end of the Sixties, for I remember ducking into one once with a girlfriend to, er, get in out of the rain. Alas, we caught the attention of the torch pointer and were booted out. As for the news cinemas, those that didn't close converted - for a while at least - to soft-porn cinemas for the dirty raincoat brigade. The march of history, as one of those newsreels might have put it...

9 comments:

  1. Remember them well Nige, we had two in Newcastle, within yards of each other, Looney Toons and unforgettable travelogues. Both long gone and one of them ended its days as a flashers soft porn cinema.
    Who was the Canadian actor who did the travelogue voice overs..Robert?

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  2. I remember them. I can forget too little. There was a good one in Victoria, I recall

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  3. Correct Bryan. In Wilton Road and still going in 1977 when I popped in for the first and only time.

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  4. 1977! A survivor indeed...

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  5. Are you sure it was still a news cinema by then, Recusant? ie. did you take your raincoat?

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  6. Mr. Appleyard is right; there was a Pathe News Cinema on the concourse at Victoria Station.

    Them were the days.

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  7. Great blog keep posting and update your blog with the great news to watch daily.

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