In 1963 I went on holiday with my father to the seaside town of Brighton. I loved the cinema (still do) and counted up thirteen cinemas.
Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of them all, but several stick out in my mind. I also remember the films I went to see at these.
There was the Academy, which was equipped with four-track magnetic sound. We went to see Lawrence of Arabia, screened in four track. Years later I interviewed cinematographer Alex Thomson who worked on the film with the great cinematographer Freddie Young and director David Lean.
At the ABC, on the front, we went to see Donovan’s Reef with John Wayne. The old Odeon in West Street, now demolished is where we saw The War Lover with Steve McQueen and Shirley Ann Field, who I interviewed for a newspaper article over thirty-five years later.
The Essoldo, which became a bingo hall before being demolished is where we sat down to watch the 1932 film Freaks.
Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard were up on the ABC Astoria’s screen in Mutiny on the Bounty. This was presented in 70mm with great sound provided by six magnetic tracks. What stood out for me was the excellent picture quality and separation of sound. At times this made your head turn. You would hear a sound at the side, look, and then realise it was the soundtrack – it was very realistic. I would say that four and six track magnetic matched any of the present day sound systems. Even old optical tracks gave crystal clear sound.
The Continental, Kemp Town is where we saw a double horror The Mummy and Frankenstein, starring Peter Cushing. Many years later I interviewed cinematographer and director Freddie Francis, who directed Cushing in some of the Hammer horrors.
I remember the tabs at the Continental making a load noise as they opened and closed. This cinema, run by Miles Burn was a bit of a fleapit, but outlived many others in the town. There was the Odeon, Kemp Town, which was on bingo when we were there. Years later I visited the box of the Continental with a friend. I think, but can’t be sure if it was Kalee equipment in use.
I remember the film being shown at the Duke of York but didn’t see it at the time. It was Premature Burial starring Ray Milland.
My father and I visited others; some showing old films for only two days. I think one of them we saw was the 1940s film about Jessie James starring Tyrone Power. I remember posters advertising all thirteen cinemas.
Years later, when I lived in London I visited Brighton several times. I remember visiting the box at the Cinescene (now demolished) which had Kalee 21 projection equipment.
None of the thirteen remain as cinemas. Most of those inviting buildings that fuelled dreams have been demolished.
We had a great time in Brighton and it was great to see so many cinemas operating that are sadly no more.