I worked at the Odeon Richmond in the early 60’s.

At that time the machines were Kalee 21’s with Duophonic sound (including 4 channel magnetic) with President arc lamps. Sometimes I did relieve at the Gaumont across the road.

The other cinema in the town was the Ritz, on the ABC circuit. The Gaumont and the Ritz have both been demolished, the Odeon continues as a cinema.

I was there during the cold winter of 1962/1963 and I remember that going to work on Boxing Day, after having a lot of snow on Christmas Day night, we had to did our way to the projection box. The access to the box was across part of the roof.

On another occasion I was watching the film waiting for the next change over and noticed the auditorium was getting very foggy. The Plenum fan motor, which was located behind and under the stage was burning out and so blue smoke was being blown into the theatre!.

This always reminds me of the time when at Twickenham Odeon, (now demolished) Ena Baga used to play the organ on Saturday mornings for the Children’s Matinee. Her signature tune was ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’. One morning as she was playing this tune at the matinee the stage tabs caught fire and started to smoke!.

The Gaumont in Richmond would have been able to cope with a smoky auditorium quite easily as the roof above the circle could be slid open and the patrons could sit under the stars!. (The Victoria Palace theatre in Victoria, London still has the facility to slide the roof open over the stalls, where the dome is, but the patrons are not exposed to the stars as a corrugated roof protects them from any rain.)

In my time at the Odeon we had coke boilers so apart from showing films the projectionist used to go down to the boiler house and stoke up boilers for the night at about 10pm!. (The boiler man would be over the pup and comeback too drunk to do the job, however he did sleep in the boiler house, sometimes on top of the boilers, he did eventually lose his job)

Although we had 4 head magnetic sound for the Fox Cinemascope, Rank did not fit any speakers around the auditorium for the ‘effects’ track, so we just had 3 channels, left, centre and right behind the screen. Very few films were being released at that time with magnetic sound, I remember we had ‘South Pacific’, ‘The Longest Day’ ‘West Side Story’ among some. The Duophonic amplifiers used 4 KT88 valves in parallel ‘push-pull’ output configuration if my memory serves me right, and the box monitor speaker was fed from a separate amplifier using a 6V6 valve single ended output stage.

We had one spotlight-slide projector with manually fed carbons.

The theatre had been fitted with a Holopane lighting system, which gave atmospheric lighting changes during the intermissions. This has been decommissioned, although the Odeon even today in Screen 1 still retains some of the atmospheric effects.

They was a small stage behind the screen and a few dressing rooms.

For the film ‘The Great Escape’ we had an escapolgy act on the stage during the trailer interval.( Man chained up in a sack and placed under a guillotine he had a nice hostess watching the clock).


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