Researchers seek Leicester cinemagoers from the Fifties

On Wednesday, film researchers are holding a special event at Leicester's Phoenix Cinema to meet people who remember the city's cinemas during the Fifties. It's free, and it will help to build a better picture of what life was like for film fans in Leicester. Here Pier Ercole, Associate Professor in Film, explains more:  

1950s cinema conjures up images of Hollywood glamour, cowboy westerns, epics and movie musicals. Stars littered the silver screen from the crooning Frank Sinatra to the brawn of Marlon Brando, the sultry Marilyn Monroe to the regal elegance of Grace Kelly.

In Leicester, like other British cities, television was emerging. But the 1950s still remained the era of the cinema-going habit. Alongside the draw of the film stars was the pull of the cinematic experience that offered something more to the audience than the small, black and white screen of the television. This was the era of exciting new technologies like Cinemascope and Technicolor.

Cameo cinema
The Cameo Cinema in High Street

The biggest movies graced the screens of more than twenty cinemas in Leicester. Films such as A Streetcar Named Desire and Singin’ in the Rain were enjoyed by thousands across the city in the Odeon in Rutland Street, the Princes’ cinema in Granby Street, the Gaumont in Market Place or the Trocadero in Uppingham Road.

The 1950s is a far cry from today’s experience of watching films. Back then, cinema programmes changed twice weekly and they included a variety of entertainment from cartoons and newsreels to B movies and main features. Sixty years on, the days of the continuous run, intermissions and usherettes are long past, and single screen cinemas have been replaced by multiplexes, portable devices and even mobile phones.

Going to the pictures was an everyday experience for people living in Leicester in the 1950s. But it is an experience that today only lives on in memory. One lecturer from De Montfort University is now leading a project to make sure that the experience of Leicester cinemagoers from the 1950s is not lost forever. 

Dr Pier Ercole is collecting everyday memories of people who went to cinemas in the city in and around the 1950s. He’s hoping that people will remember the cinemas they went to, the films they saw and what it was like. To help prompt memories and to take a fond look back, Dr Ercole is hosting a special free archive screening and talk at Leicester’s Phoenix cinema on Wednesday 13 February at 2pm.

There’s no need to sign up, so simply come along if you’re interested in joining in and sharing your memories of visiting Leicester’s cinemas in and around the 1950s - all while enjoying free tea and biscuits.

During the event, participants will be encouraged to share their memories and are invited to bring in items from personal collections. Archive film footage will introduce the project and highlight aspects of 1950s culture, Leicester and cinema history.

Posted on Sunday 10th February 2019

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