Thursday, 24 June 2021

Henley Ladies Probus Club

AT the October meeting, held at Badgemore Golf Club, the chairman Anne Duffy welcomed our speaker, Tony King.

AT the October meeting, held at Badgemore Golf Club, the chairman Anne Duffy welcomed our speaker, Tony King.

His presentation, called “Shadows on the Wall” was entertaining, informative, amusing and an education about the world of cinema and cinema buildings as they have developed.

From the early magic lantern shows to the development of what became known as “animated pictures”, the cinema as we know it today was born.

Early films were silent but it was the breakthrough into sound that really transformed the cinema. The Jazz Singer (1927) had the first spoken dialogue.

Colour films were made in the Twenties but it was the development of Technicolor that moved the process forward with films like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). As television became a threat, films were produced in 3D (for which you had to wear those wretched glasses) until the widescreen process of CinemaScope, first developed in the Twenties was rediscovered in the Fifties.

Add stereophonic sound to the widescreen and the way films were seen was completely transformed.

Today live casts are being made to cinemas across the country and worldwide from venues like the Royal Opera House and West End stage, which is proving very popular and bringing many back to the cinema.

The cinema building as we know it today came from touring Bioscopes — just fairground attractions — until the stand alone cinemas were born.

In this country the Electric Palaces opened up around the country, usually charging 3d or 6d for admission.

Gradually these buildings developed into the spread of the “picture palaces” of the Twenties, beautiful buildings on which no expense was spared.

The Thirties was the heyday for cinema-building with often two or three, even in modest towns and many more in the cities.

The spread of the Odeon chain, which started in Birmingham, was typical of the popularity of the cinema — they had the aim to build a cinema in every town in the country over 25,000 in population.

In the Forties, escapism was the order of the day, offering an atmosphere so different from the bleak world left behind as you entered the cinema and attendances peaked.

With the spread of television in the late Fifties and Sixties, people stayed at home and cinemas were taken over for other uses, such as supermarkets or bingo halls, or just left to decay.

Today the fortunes of the cinema have been revived with the multiplexes offering many screens within the same building but they are a far cry from the luxury of those old palaces.

Henley Ladies Probus Club meets in the morning on the second Thursday of the month. The next meeting will be on November 14, when the speaker will be Roger Shaw talking about his exploits while sailing around the world. For information, call Marion Whitaker on (01491) 628629.

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