50 Years Ago, this week at The Picture House. Week commencing Sunday Aug 15th 1971
Things were a bit different in the olden days. We booked one week at a time, meaning there were no such things as holdovers, a film now runs as long as it needs to, sometimes longer if there is sod all else to replace it with, but back then a week was a week. So despite having a huge previous seven days with the first run of The Aristocats, it was not held for another week. If a film warranted further playing time it could always come back, as the pressure from TV and home video in 1971 was pretty non-existent.
Cinemas in 1971 were Sunday change, not Friday’s as they are now. This presented its own challenge, particularly when the film wasn’t delivered overnight on Saturday. I can bore you to death with the way films were delivered in the aforementioned olden days another time.
The 2129 admissions Aug 15th week was by no means a disaster, but it was 1200 less admissions than the week before, which is a lot. 1200 less Orange Maid’s, 1200 less luke warm plastic containers of Kia-Ora and 1200 less little red boxes of Payne’s Toffets.
Ironically we were clearly scratching for films as my dad put together what he called one of his rep weeks. He liked those, not least because the film hire was cheaper. The Sunday programme was often a flat rate and that would usually be the most successful day.
This week though, the emphasis was on family films, being in the middle of the summer holidays as it was.
Sunday programmes were mostly horror or sex or both, however Sun Aug 15th for two days he put on an A certificate (the equivalent of PG now) double feature. Carry On Again Doctor (1969) or Carry On 18 as it would be called now, with the second Morecambe and Wise film That Riviera Touch (1966) as the second feature.
Chances are it was raining, the admissions for the two days were very strong under the circumstances. Remember, these films were old.
Two days on the Disney live action adventure In Search of the Castaways, which was from 1962. Although to see an old Disney film in the cinema was not unusual right up to the late 80’s, when they sold the family silver to home video. Hayley Mills surrounded by a cast of old buffers, including Maurice Chevalier, George Sanders and Wilfred Hyde White. Based on a Jules Verne story, I honestly can’t ever remember sitting through it.
The clever bit was adding Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day to the programme. Families would come in just for that and lots of them would leave all through the more grown up feature. The Winnie the Pooh shorts were only two reelers and lasted 25 minutes. He still managed to pad out the programme with his usual addition of a Look at Life short. He loved those, a 15 minute slice of Britishness. He must have had a stack of them in the cupboard or a rolling deal with Rank, because, and correct me if I’m wrong, Disney films were distributed by Universal at the time. Or possibly Fox. Someone out there knows.
The last three days were a strong end to the week. Ring of Bright Water always did good business in Uckfield. Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna were very popular at the time particularly in Born Free, which was another regular booking.
The story of a city man who finds himself with an Otter called Mij and decides to move to a remote cottage in the west of Scotland. I think the film traumatised a generation of children who were taken to see it, it certainly freaked me out at the time. I can’t imagine it getting made today, at least not with the same shocking ending.
All in all a pretty solid week, although you can’t help wondering how much better another week on The Aristocats would have done. Because as we all know, everybody wants to be a cat.
If you would like to hear more about cinema in the 1970’s and how it played out in Uckfield with particular reference to my growing up, listen to this series of podcasts I did for Uckfield FM. I promise it’s worth it.