Refurb Update

The old girl is undergoing a facelift.

The old girl is undergoing a facelift.

Work is well underway, colours picked out and the new seats are apparently in a container on their way through the Suez canal. Given how it looks, it seems impossible that screen one will be finished around October half term, but hopefully it will.

The Facebook page is proving very popular and gives a nice timeline of the work so far, it’s also a chance for people to interact and give their opinions about what’s going on.

Pile of Seats!

Pile of Seats!

First to come up were the seats. My boy Joe and his mates toiled all night and did a great job, while I slept soundly in my bed. It’s good to be the king.

Notice just how Coca Cola stained the carpet had become, and this was only cleaned about six weeks before we started. The new seats have cup holders which should reduce that problem.

Screen comes down.

Screen comes down.

Then it was time for Powell & Co to pop in and take the screen and frame down. I would have done it, but would have probably killed myself and everybody else in the room. The speakers have gone into storage to avoid putting a foot through them.

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All the timber surrounding the stage is out.

Old stage area now almost gone.

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Screen and staging gone, floor coming out.

Cleared and ready to take up the floor.

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Joists revealed. Weird.

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Looking house right.

Taking the screen and stage out revealed the old colour scheme from when I was a kid and it was all one big (ish) cinema.

Sadly I have no pictures of the single screen auditorium. We will be on the hunt for them next year as we prepare for the 2016 centenary celebrations.

Annotated-Building-Site!

Echoes of versions past.

With floor right out, many of the original features were revealed. Remember the screen was on the wall to the right of the picture in the single screen days.
I posted this annotated picture on our Facebook page.

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Joanna repository.

This is a close up of the well where the piano went during the silent days, which has been hidden under the floor for 35 years.

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Extra wallage.

We’e had problems since the advent of turbo nutter six channel digital sound with breakthrough between screen one and two, which is actually the old balcony.

This new, incredibly dense (and expensive!) second wall between the theatres will eliminate most of those problems. I hope.

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Door.

So the old entrance to screen one is now blocked by the extra wall. As part of the larger plan a new corridor will serve all the screens and the toilets, the new door into screen one off the existing corridor is the start of that process.

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Scissor brothers.

The soundproof wall is now finished and the chaps make good the last remaining gap. This is the boxed in area that will house the new curtain and masking tracks.

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At last.

Now the new, all stepped, groovy floor is finally going in. You can see that the back row will be quite a bit higher than before from the outline of the old one!

 

Meanwhile, outside…

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Redecorating and new roof tiles on the turret.  Also awaiting a replacement for the gnarled and rotten old flag pole.

Sunday 12th October sees the closure of screen three and the work on the new air conditioning begins.

So far so good, and by the first week in November we will have two refurbished screens out of three.

Good job I’ve got a full head of hair, For the moment.

Here goes then, point of no return approaches.

Screen One earlier today.

Screen One earlier today.

 

Tonight (August 28th 2014) we close the number one screen and start ripping out the seats. At this point, there’s no going back. I’m spending ½ million pounds, not much if you say it quickly. Actually it is quite a lot, I’ll still be paying it back when I peg out probably.

It’s been a long time coming this refurbishment, mainly due to a combination of indecision and health and safety gone mad stuff. I reckon it was much easier building Ely cathedral, so you had to hang from rickety wooden scaffolding and a few surfs died in the process, but anyone who’s had a nice picnic on the lawn surely agrees that’s a small price to pay.

The work will be in two phases. Phase one, starting tonight, involves the complete refurbishment of screens one and three. Screen one is being utterly gutted, floor out and screen coming down. This will expose the dividing wall between screen one and two, where we have the worst sound proofing problems.

When we converted to two screens in 1977, creaky old mono sound barely got to the back row, let alone through a wall into another room, however, with multi-channel turbo nutter digital sound it needs sorting out. Two noisy films don’t cause too much of a problem, but if Thor is banging his hammer in one and Judi Dench is having a quiet cup of tea in the other the rumbling in the background sounds like a distant war.

To fix this everything is coming off the front wall of screen one and we are building another soundproof wall from floor to roof, isolating the two halves of the building. Lord Dench should then be able to enjoy her tea in peace.

When this is done a new floor goes down, introducing steps all the way as opposed to the back four rows, this will make the back row higher. New carpet and dead sexy new seats. The new seats have cup holders at last, and I’m taking a row out to improve the legroom.

The entrance is being moved to the side, meaning we can take the curtains and screens all the way across the front wall. This means a bigger picture and with the groovy acoustic fabric going on the walls, watching a film in there is going to be an even more wonderful experience. I also intend to upgrade the sound to 7.1.

 

Phase one plan. Great reading for builders and architects, probably confusing for everyone else.

Phase one plan. Great reading for builders and architects, probably confusing for everyone else.

 

Screen three will also have new seats, carpets and acoustic treatment. I’m raising the screen up a bit to improve the sightlines and a new air conditioning system that will be much quieter.

Once all that is done we stop for Christmas. There are simply too many good films to have nay part of the building out of operation November to March. Once we have squeezed every last drop out of Marigold Hotel 2 the work will start again.

That’s the really challenging bit, completely removing all the walls in the foyer and building an extension on the north facing part of the building. We can then accommodate you all in more comfort and with the new bar we can offer the complete night out. At that point we refurbish screen two.

Then I pass out and retire to my bed until Christmas 2015.

The point of no return is always good to reach. When the work started on building number three in 1999, I remember clearly standing outside as a JCB gently nudged the back of the building off, thinking there’s no going back now.

It’s oddly calming, because from this point on the only way out is to finish.

Wish me luck.

What’s the plan Kev?

New Ground Floor Layout. Subject to tweaking of course.

New Ground Floor Layout. Subject to tweaking of course.

The sharp eyed among you will have noticed we submitted a planning application to Wealden District Council which has now been granted and after Easter 2014 we can start our big refurbishment.

There are two main objectives, the first being an overall refit, decor, seats, carpet, that sort of thing. It’s been a twelve years since we did any significant work and whilst still lovely, the place needs a refresh. When we are done the old girl will be even more gorgeous.

The second and radical part of the plan is a completely resigned  foyer and new entrance corridor to the theaters.

If you’re a regular customer you will know the foyer layout is not favourite. As soon as it gets busy, nothing moves and there’s no space to buy drinks and generally hang around. It’s intimate to say the least.

The kiosk is also outdated and a wee bit gnarly if I’m honest. The bar sales part is rather apologetic and not especially appealing, so Sean Albuquerque of ABQ Studio architects has come up with a plan so cunning etc.

In very simple terms we are going to remove the old, rarely used box office and make that the way up from the front door into the foyer. The old kiosk will be removed and a new entrance to the theatres will appear there, turning left into a new extension housing a wider corridor along the north side of the building. All the theatres and the toilets will be accessed from this new extension.

Foot traffic will no longer need to go through the centre of the foyer, meaning we can build a big sexy new bar along the back of the foyer with room to linger. I also plan to improve some of  the acoustics in the theatres.

It’s all very exciting and once I get the costs locked down, I can go and do the dance of the seven veils in front of the financiers. It’s not going to be cheap, seats alone are over £100 each, but by next summer we should be in great shape to meet the demands of modern audiences for both film and the increasingly important live events.

We’ve also been working hard on the new membership scheme that is going to be rather fab and a massive new design of the website. No wonder there’s been no time to blog properly, this isn’t as easy as it looks you know.

Keep checking back or better still subscribe for updates to the madness, stress, tears and triumph that is going to be 2014.

What’s New Kev?

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Waiting in the rain for the excellent Selfish Giant. Cannes 2013. Go me.

Thanks for asking. There’s been all sorts going on around here, not least the latest version of the refurbishment plans which are a step closer to being ready for submission. Very exciting and when I can tell you more I will.

I went to Cannes last week which was very pleasant, when it finally stopped raining. Met lots of wonderful people and managed to see some good films, most of them will never see the inside of a commercial cinema, some of them are lucky to have seen the inside of a cinema at all.

The Cannes film festival always feels to me like one of those inside the industry things that a lot of people spend a lot of money swanking around, feeling very self important and rushing to get their opinions out on TwitBook or whatever, while the rest of the world doesn’t give a flying Dingo’s kidney.  Acres of print coverage, web blogs, live text updates and reports from the red carpet.

Here’s a test, industry types are not allowed to compete and you have to answer without Google.

1. What won the Palme d’or last year?

2. Name one other film that has won a Palme d’or.

3. Name four of the films in competition this year.

4. Who was the head of the Jury this year?

You might get the last one, but there is a good reason for that, he’s the most famous film director in the world. My theory’s not in the least scientific or even tested if I’m honest, but I reckon if you stopped 30 people in the street you’d be hard pressed to find one correct answer. In fact, I’m not sure I can answer.

1. I think that long one about the nuns won last year or was it Amour?

2. Something by Michael Haneke probably. Or Jean Luc Goddard.

3. Now, I think I can do this. Nebraska definitely because I saw that one, it was great. The Cohen brothers film, whose name escapes me, probably blotted it out because I queued for hours twice and didn’t get in. Only God Forgives was certainly one. How many is that? Three? There must be one non American film I can think of. I’m struggling. The lesbian one? I don’t think that was in the main competition. Arse.

4. Steven Spielberg! Come on, you’d have to be an idiot not to know that.

It’s not that I can’t look them up, God knows that would be easy, but I can’t remember off the top of my head. That might have something to do with turning 50 of course.

The other thing about Cannes is that it’s full of young men and women, most of them expensively educated, running around taking important meetings about their slate of films and non of them will produce a single film, ever.

Still it’s nice we all get to go on a jolly and feel very special, and it proves just how much more exciting our lives are than every one else’s.

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, I had a brilliant time. Great food, even better company and I wasn’t in Uckfield. Who could want more?

I was just making a general point that it’s nothing like as important as everyone there thinks it is, that’s all.

If you want to know what did actually happen at Cannes this year, unfiltered by my whinging load of self loathing, I can recommend The Guardian film pages. They saw everything, at least twice, and were probably invited to every party. Unlike me. I wonder why?

Nostalgia is Very Much What it Used To Be.

Oooh look, I'm on film!

Oooh look, I’m on film!

As of April 2013 75% of the world’s cinemas have converted to digital and at the speed it’s going I would imagine that number has already increased considerably. I saw some figures at the recent Digital Cinema Conference that indicate the UK was sitting at 91% digital as long ago as January.

Any cinemas sitting on the fence, and incredibly there are still one or two, are going to have to pull their finger out. Almost certainly by the end of 2013 most of the major distributors will have made the decision to drop 35mm film imminently or have done so already.

A cinema without digital projection by the end of this year is doomed. Fortunately we went completely digital three years ago, one of the first multi screen independants to do so.

Three years is not long at all, but 35mm feels like a lifetime ago. The prospect of going back to film would be horrific. If it was discovered that digital projectors were ticking time bombs that could destroy the high street at any moment and all film projectors had to be restored, I would give serious consideration to changing my career. Something that would be less traumatic, say like cutting old ladies toe nails in the local retirement home.

Not having to lump the heavy transit cases up and down the stairs alone is a cause for rejoicing along with the other physical requirements which make every performance a potential hazard.

Perhaps I overstate the last point, but the fact I can run all three screens without leaving my office chair is perfect for a lazy git such as myself. I can even run the show from my iPhone should I so desire. Truly the future is now.

Inevitably though, the Luddites and nostalgia fans have already come out of the woodwork. I must admit to being rather surprised at just how quickly.

Already some cinemas are promoting 35mm screenings as if they are both special and superior. They pick themselves up a scratchy old join riddled print of say, Silent Running, and promote it as cause for celebration.

A celebration of all that is good about cinema. To paraphrase Adam Buxton, nonsense! nonsense! nonsense!

Everytime I sit and watch a film in my cinema I’m still staggered at how bright and sharp the picture is. How it doesn’t have marks on it and it doesn’t jump up and down. The framing remains constant and it doesn’t change colour every twenty minutes.

Film looks fantastic, when all the elements are right. When the laboratory work is spot on, which it rarely was in the last few years. When a popcorn monkey let loose in the projection box hadn’t inadvertently used the print as a stair carpet.  When the lamp was correctly lined up, the portholes and lenses were clean and the intermittent shaft wasn’t bent out of shape and the sprocket teeth not worn down to a nub.

Am I getting a bit technical? Sorry.

The point is that it’s very difficult for cinemas to sod up digital. Which is why it’s perfect for multiplexes, where often no one ever bothers looking out of the porthole to check the picture is actually on the screen let alone in focus or framed correctly.

It makes the customers experience far more consistently good. Which is the most important thing, not how much you like mucking about with strips of plastic.

Where has this affectation about 35mm come from? It feels pretentious and ill informed. 35mm projection is not better than digital projection, you may prefer it, but it’s not better, and the benefits far outweigh the perceived losses. I’m not even sure what we have lost, can someone explain?

There will always be a nostalgia for film, because it’s in the past. Like rationing and ricketts.

But don’t you dare suggest my cinema is inferior because I merely show films digitally.

I bet you probably paid £50 for an HDMI lead too.

2012 wrapped up.

Here it is then, our top ten of the year. No surprises what captured the number one spot, but the rest of it is a bit out of kilter with the world of multiplex that dominates the national chart.

1. Skyfall
We always punch above our weight with a Bond picture but this exceeded everyone’s expectations. The secret was simple, it was a cracking film.

2. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
This is where we start to veer off the national course. A film aimed so accurately at us it was never going to miss.


3. War Horse
The clue here is horse. Being a huge West End hit helped enormously, Spielberg was actually the least of it. Too much for me I’m afraid.


4. The Artist
Well done everybody, tremendous heartwarming fun. Everything about this film has been said.


5. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Huge hit for this gentle comedy that did better in Uckfield than almost everywhere else.


6. Ice Age 4
There seems to be no way of making these films not take money. Not even making rubbish ones.


 7. The Iron Lady
Let’s face it, around here this was always going to be in the top ten.


8. The Hobbit
Still playing, so probably would climb higher given the chance.


9. The Woman in Black
Slight surprise to see this here, but it performed well and scared the hell out of the teenagers.

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10. The Dark Knight Rises
Just scraped in, Nolan’s great big noisy conclusion to his Batman trilogy.

 

Only two films in this list, Skyfall and Dark Knight Rises made the national top ten for the year. No Avengers you may notice, quite telling indeed.

The Wooden Spoon:


Fast Girls
Lowest first week gross of the year, what was I thinking?

So, thanks everyone for making 2012 a very good year indeed. Hopefully 2013 can keep the momentum going.

It’s possible..

Kev

We’re Still Here Then?

 

 

I know, I know. Let’s crank this up again..

A strange year one way and another, started off better than any year has ever started, then took a steep nosedive. A slow period of recovery and then a stonking finish.

Because we’ve such a discerning audience, yes I mean you, January to March is always the best period of the year for us as all the award baiting stuff is released.

The football and Olympics did us no favours at all, not necessarily because audiences didn’t want to go to the pictures, but because the distributors abandoned us. Not one of them had the balls to release a decent film, instead using the time to dump their rubbish films on us.

Therefore no one in the cinemas and pretty much a self fulfilling prophecy all round. We even had two films open on a Monday in August to avoid the final Olympic weekend, which is bordering on insanity.

This means we’re supposed to survive on scraps but still be here warm, welcoming and paying through the nose when the perceived better date arrives to release films, and all of them at the same time. Everyone of them expecting all performances.

By that I mean no other film is allowed to play in that screen. Something that really is going to have to change if distribs continue to bunch films around certain dates like bees around a honeypot.

Particularly for sites like mine where we only have three screens.

Does it sound like I’m complaining? I am a wee bit I suppose, but in reality we’ve had a very good year. If the middle bit hadn’t let us down it would have broken every record going.

There’s no pleasing some people is there?

The end of the year has risen again to record breaking heights, mainly due of course, to Mr Bond. The live streaming of opera, ballet and theatre goes from strength to strength.

3D took a hammering. Audiences really do seem fed up with it.

Next post, up soon, I will detail our top ten films of 2012. Which you can be sure will not look anything like national chart.