A night at the flicks is a term often used in my younger days to describe going for a night out at the cinema, sometimes also described as the Flea Pit for the run down type or a Picture Palace for some of the more grand affairs you might find in a city centre. In my youth we would often go to the pictures at least twice a week, the feature films would change every 4 days. The picture houses had grand names like the Empire or the Ritz or the Essolda, some belonged to chains like Odeon, ABC, Paramount or the Savoy.
Picture houses back then mostly had just the one large screen and the screening would be continuous all day from 2pm till 11pm, which meant that you could come and go as you like, if you missed the beginning of the film you just stayed in you seat until it was re-run to the point where you came in and then if you wished you could leave or watch the performance again.
Every Saturday morning the would be a kids club which usually contained Cartoons, westerns and Sci-Fi serials like Flash Gordon, unfortunately they often turned out a bit unruly at times.
Going to the cinema back then was a much different experience than it often is today. Each showing of the main feature film was accompanied by a full programme of supporting features.
Arriving at the cinema you would be met by the Commissionaire in his smart military style uniform who would point the way to the ticket box and also ensure that no undesirables entered. You bought your tickets at the booth, also on sale were movie magazines and sweets, you took you seat either in the lower stalls or the upper gallery usually to the sound of recorded music or in the larger establishments you were entertained by the resident organist on the Wurlitzer theatre organ. Our local cinema always played the greatest hits of the Shadows before each performance. The Screen would always be covered up by a velvety red curtain and standing in front of the screen would be usherettes selling ice creams and soft drinks.
The programme would start with a series of adverts, some national and some for local shops and restaurants; this was followed by the trailers of films that would be shown at the cinema in future weeks (http://youtu.be/SgnDCS11EWw ). Next would come the Pathe News http://youtu.be/PJ-vJARftrk covering news from home and abroad and sporting news all in colour. In a time when less that half the population didn’t own a TV and no one had colour it was perhaps the only opportunity for people to see what was going on in the world. Before the main feature they would show the ‘B’ movie, this was a low budget movie some of which were very good some not so good. These films were often Westerns or Sci-fi some have even reached cult status in recent times. At the end of the ‘B’ movie there would be a short interval before the main feature was shown.
Many towns in the 1950-60s had at least two cinemas, some city’s at maybe five or six and even cinemas that just showed News reels and cartoons all day. Unfortunately with television spreading into move and more homes in the 1970s less people used the cinema and it was inevitable that by the late 1970s many of the picture houses had turned into Bingo halls.
There has in recent years been resurgence in cinema goers and new cinemas are opening once again. I would love to be able to go to my local cinema but unfortunately the only cinema we have is above an amusement arcade and not particularly accessible to people with disabilities. But I have hope that one day we may have one of the modern Multiplex so that I can view some of the exciting new releases coming our way.
The link below shows just some of the films making the rounds of cinemas in the 1960s
Link below shows more of the great films of the 1950s
More great films this time from the 1950s
The link below gives you some idea of the Cinema experience of this time