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  • Writer's pictureEllen Cheshire

Four Films and an AGM

Four Films. Three Venues. Two Days. One hell of a weekend!

Saturday morning I headed down the A27 to Southsea for The Frank Matcham Society AGM at the Kings Theatre. Having worked there from 2015 - 2019 it was lovely to be back in this Grade II* listed Frank Matcham designed Edwardian playhouse at the invitation of the fabulous volunteer archivists, Pete and Chris.

I was chuffed to be there! Chris delivered a fascinating talk on the history of Portsmouth's other theatres. There were guided tours both front and back stage of this magnificent 1907 theatre which has undergone considerable restoration over the years - some of which was funded by money I raised whilst working there!

The Auditorium (and theatre more widely) now entirely lit with warm/dimmable LED lights, considerably reducing the Theatre's electric bill and carbon footprint.

A special treat to be allowed up in the flytower (although it was very hot!) and to hear about the traditional hemp flyropes and the new high-tech innovations.

The Kings was built in 1907 and soon after film became a vital part of touring variety shows. The theatre moved with the times and added a projection box at the back of the upper circle. You can see this legacy from the different bricks when it was removed.

A few films have been shot at the Kings over the years, most famously, the Pinball Wizard number from Tommy (1975, Ken Russell).

Award-winning volunteer archivists, Pete and Chris, also brought out some material from the archives, and created some displays...

Objects included an original AA sign, and the seat repair kit hints at the original colour scheme.

I ended the day at Chichester Cinema at New Park where I worked from 2003 - 2007 as their first General Manager, and have stayed involved with over the years as a volunteer usher, and regular speaker in their education programme. But on this occasion I wasn't on duty and could settle in a comfy seat free of responsibility to watch a Special Preview of La Syndicaliste (2023, Jean-Paul Salomé) a thrilling drama set in the world of nuclear power and politics. Do look out for it when it’s on general release.

Did you know that there's a six o'clock in the morning on a Sunday? Well that's the ridiculous time I had to set my clock to get to a day of films at BFI's inaugural Film On Film Festival. After a quick dip in the sea, it was off to catch the 0730 train to London. As the train trundled through the spectacular Arun Valley my head was firmly stuck into a fab novel by Emeric Pressburger, The Glass Pearls. I nearly missed my stop to change to get to Waterloo. But luckily I did, getting to BFI Southbank in time for a bit of schmoozing at the Networking breakfast before spending the day in NFT 1 watching three films being screened from nitrate prints. I paid little attention to what films I had booked to see, but I certainly paid attention once I was in the auditorium.

After hearing the safety announcements for projecting from 70+ year old nitrate prints regretted sitting in row M just in front of the projection box. But made it through the three screenings safely!

Service for Ladies (1932, Alexander Korda)

Max (Leslie Howard) is the head waiter for a swanky London hotel & has a reputation for knowing how to please the ladies both in & out of the dining room. He falls for an American heiress (Elizabeth Allen) who's keen to snare a title. It's a deliciously naughty Brit comedy with some delightful comic set pieces esp when the action moves to Austria & Max is incognito. Extra thrill of watching a 91 year old nitrate print that audiences would've watched on its original release.

Blood and Sand (1941, Rouben Mamoulian)

A Technicolor extravaganza with a trio of attractive leads (Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth) framed, lit & styled to perfection in this bullfighting-set love triangle. RH has never looked more gorgeous whilst being so wicked who steals the really quite foolish/eager Juan (Power) away from his pragmatic/beatific wife Carmen (Darnell). Laird Cregar fab in scene-stealing turn as bullfighting critic whose responses during fight finales is orgasmic. Watched original nitrate print - lush!

No Way Out (1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz)

Dr Brooks' (Sidney Poitier) first night as a qualified dr on a hospital's prison ward doesn't end well with one prisoner dead & his violent racist brother (Richard Widmark) blaming the newbie black doctor & seeking revenge on the entire black community. Linda Darnell stars as dead prisoner's ex-wife who's easily manipulated by her cruel ex-brotherinlaw. Grim/gritty but essential viewing for tackling such controversial issues. Watched a 1951 nitrate print which were being phased out at this time.

Was such a good day at the BFI Southbank that I splashed out on an annual membership! More film days to come...

Unpacking my #FilmOnFilm goody bag this morning found a real treasure. So my history of film physical media display now has a new addition! Thank You!


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