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Sixties City
 Sixties  Cinema 


  The rapidly expanding competition from the new television business had advanced unchecked on the film industry since the Fifties and, between the mid-50s and 1960, cinema admissions had been reduced by half. This was particularly due to the introduction of regional independent television companies which began to acquire and broadcast many fairly new films compared to the BBC's traditional studio-based variety entertainment output.
Local cinemas in the Sixties                                                                     
  Also, with almost 'instant' news available daily, the cinematic newsreel programme slowly died out and this, along with a shortage of American films, led to a major reduction in the number of cinemas able to survive financially. By the mid-Sixties, a significant proportion of the population owned television sets and preferred to be entertained in the comfort of their own homes. The failing cinemas were being mothballed, demolished or converted into bingo halls, bowling alleys and dance hall/ballrooms.

The home market for British-made films was shrinking and the industry had to learn the art of making their output more acceptable to a wider variety of audiences, both British and international, in order to survive. The success of these new films such as 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962), 'Tom Jones' (1963), 'Becket' and 'Zulu' (1964) and 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines' (1965), both encouraged and attracted a significant American investment into British film production. (more)
The Young Ones
Sixties City Classic and Cult 60s Film Pages

Science Fiction   Pop & Culture   Hammer   Elvis Presley   Man From U.N.C.L.E.   Carry On   Japanese Sci-Fi & Kaiju Eiga   James Bond   The Beach Movies

All Sixties Films - by Year    1960    1961    1962    1963    1964    1965    1966    1967    1968    1969                  Wikipedia

   Bill Harry's Sixties      Bill Harry's Sixties - Comment on classic and cult films, people, and other aspects of the 60s from the creator of   The story of Mersey Beat

Sixties Cinema - (continued)

Home-grown male actors such as Kenneth More, Richard Burton, Jack Hawkins, Peter Finch, Laurence Harvey and Richard Todd maintained or increased their international appeal but female actresses of the same stature were few and far between during this period. American directors such as Joseph Losey (blacklisted in America), Stanley Kubrick and Richard Lester were regularly working in Britain throughout the Sixties, producing cult and classic films such as 'The Knack', 'A Hard Day's Night', 'Help!' and '2001 - A Space Odyssey'. The special effects talent brought together by this particular 1968 production was to significantly enhance the British film industry's importance in this art over the following years.

Other foreign directors and producers such as Roman Polanski - 'Repulsion' (1965) and 'Cul-de-Sac' (1966) - were also attracted to Britain at this time. Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni made 'Blowup' with David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave in 1966 and François Truffaut directed the only film he made outside of France when he made the classic 'Fahrenheit 451' in 1966.
Four of the Sixties 'Academy Award' winners for 'Best Picture' were British film productions. (see film pages)

Concurrently, Albert 'Cubby' Broccoli and Harry Saltzman spectacularly combined the more relaxed attitude towards sex with exotic locations, explosive violent action and a self-effacing style of humour in the incredibly successful 'James Bond' series of movies. 'Dr. No' - the first film (1962) - was really only a British hit, initially. The following year 'From Russia With Love' was received with much more international interest and 'Goldfinger' (1964) was a worldwide smash hit, as were all the subsequent productions. Their box office success led to a plethora of 'spy' films in various guises including action ('Deadlier Than The Male'), spoof (Monica Vitti's 'Modesty Blaise' and James Coburn's 'Flint' series) and rather more serious interpretations such as Michael Caine's superb, very British 'Harry Palmer' character in 'The Ipcress File', 'Funeral In Berlin' and 'Billion Dollar Brain' films.
An upcoming, young generation of filmmakers and artists who would appeal to the virtually untapped potential of 60s youth audiences of the 60's were one of the 'brave new' hopes for the indigenous industry and, coinciding with the change in youth culture, they came into their own as film censorship reduced its old 'hard line' blanket prohibitions, allowing the use of increasingly free speech, more overt sexuality and innuendo and previously 'forbidden' subjects such as homosexuality, abortion and illegitimacy.
A Hard Day's Night

This prompted an increase in studio output in many directions, but most noticeably three: The 'Pop Movie' which used the media as a vehicle to carry the British 'Beat Boom' explosion to a much wider visual audience; the British 'farce' genre of innuendo and postcard humour of the 'Carry On' film series which took up the baton from the 'Doctor' films of the Fifties, and a whole range of youth and working-class cultural films that challenged the conventions of British society such as 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning'; 'A Taste Of Honey'; 'Room at the Top'; 'Up The Junction'; 'Look Back In Anger'; 'Georgy Girl'; 'Alfie' and 'Women in Love'.

Summer Holiday
New cinemas were being built in 'New Towns' such as Hemel Hempstead and Harlow, but many of the older, classic, giant single screen picture houses were being sold off to be demolished and replaced by petrol stations, shopping centres and office blocks (which often contained a small, modern cinema somewhere in the complex to help with the granting of planning permission). The more profitable cinemas were extensively modernised but many were just abandoned and boarded up to become increasingly derelict 'protected' buildings.

By the end of 1965 the number of British cinemas had declined to 1,971 from the 3,050 at the end of 1960 and the 4,700 that were flourishing just after the war. By the mid-1960s, there were only enough major film productions being released to provide new weekly showings for the two largest cinema chains: Rank (which included all the old 'Gaumont' and 'Odeon' cinemas) and the ABC group. Most of the 'independent' cinemas, starved of product by this virtual 'closed shop', were either forced to become part of the larger groups or close down.

Occasional attempts were made to play films for a fortnight or longer on general release but audiences, keen to be among the first to see new releases, tended to try and view them in the first week. By the 1960s, many cinemas in city centres were principally engaged in 'road show' or 'hard ticket' engagements. The particularly big attractions, such as the James Bond films, were more suited to a more short-term run before audience interest declined.

There was a rapidly decreasing need for the large seating capacities and two-tier structure of the leading cinemas. Many, like the Empire Leicester Square, were replaced by a smaller cinema as part of a redevelopment scheme. Substantial sums were invested to remodel the interiors of other cinemas to create two or more auditoria with a rather less grandiose, contemporary décor, beginning with the Odeon, Nottingham, in 1965.
The usual method was to just blank off the 'balcony' section, creating 3 smaller cinemas. In the early 1970s the circuit cinemas in the smaller towns and suburbs also began to be subdivided into three-screen 'film centres'.
Many Odeons were inexpensively converted into 'triples', without closing, by blocking off the rear stalls and subdividing the space into two small cinemas while continuing to use the balcony and existing screen as the main auditorium while work progressed. These conversions sometimes provided poor sightlines and tiny screens downstairs and also had considerable problems with sound penetration. Many ABC cinemas closed completely for more substantial conversion into three auditoria, all with new screens, to create greater capacities. There was a gradual move to separate performances instead of the traditional continuous ones and, for safety reasons,to the elimination of smoking.

Sittin' In The Back Row Of The Movies . . . .
A few of my personal local memories:

Odeon St Albans
The Odeon, London Road, St.Albans
Gaumont St Albans
The Gaumont, Hatfield Road, St.Albans
Odeon Harlow
The Odeon, Harlow, 1960

The Harlow Odeon was converted into a 3-screen cinema. The St.Albans Odeon has been closed since the Nineties after being converted
into a multi-screen cinema and later, a bingo hall. The prettiest cinema, The Gaumont is, sadly, no longer with us......

Unfortunately I have no pictures of the Chequers cinema in Chequer Street, St.Albans which closed in June 1962
or the Embassy cinema in Harpenden. 
Can you help? Please mail me ...


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