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Regal: more memories of movie magic
My earliest memory of the that brilliant place was sitting with my Dad, in 1983, to watch "Return Of The Jedi". I was six years old. He had taken my older brother the night before, and it seemed as though I would not get the chance (was in the bath, apparently). So, after I duly kicked up a fuss so big that you could see it from space, he decided it might be prudent to let me go too. And I never forgot it. My love of cinema was born right there.
A number of movies followed - the ending of "Superman III" scared me so badly, that I henceforth had to sleep with my bedroom door open, and the landing light on. And it was a good long while before things could go back to normal (last Thursday). The aforementioned "Ghostbusters", "Transformers: The Movie", "Go-Bots: Battle Of The Rock Lords", and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", to name but a few. I remember the queues around the block. Trying to get there early. Being dropped off out front, and scooped up again earlier, whereupon I would proceed to tell whichever parent was present all about what I had seen. In detail. Whether they liked it or not.
But as you so rightly say in your article, it was the atmosphere of the place. That 1930's style that is all but extinct now, in movie-going realms. Yes! - that smell of popcorn. "Playtime" popcorn, in fact. That was my poison. And Kia-Ora. The kind of snacks that, unlike now, you didn't need a second mortgage for. The old fashioned tickets, the deco surroundings. And that mural - used to stare at it for ages. I can actually remember a time when VHS cassettes were rented in the foyer, from what looked like large, wooden bookcases. I never really appreciated the design of the place until I was older. As a kid, it was just where I went to see films. And pounce on that ice cream lady at the side of the auditorium before the queue formed. I would always sit in the same place, if possible - a few rows up from the entry stairs, in the middle, on the aisle. Best view, I reckoned. Could never understand it when kids would run in and make a bee-line for the front. Very odd.
I loved the size of that room. There was a real feeling that going to the cinema was an event, even on a week night. The best experiences I've ever had watching films happened there. And I'm not just talking about the film itself, but the feeling. I remember two, in particular - "Batman Returns", and "Home Alone 2". That main screen was packed for both. 700 seats - I'd never seen the place so full. With the former, I will never forget the enormous cheer that went up when Batman was first seen speeding towards Gothan City. For the latter, it was the uproarious laughter in all the right places that mad you feel that you had not only watched the film, but that you had shared it with others. People you didn't know, and probably never would. There was a camaraderie that, while it didn't happen all the time, is something I have never experienced at a multiplex. For all their technology, atmosphere is something you can't manufacture. A place either has it, or it doesn't. And the Regal had it in spades.
But I blame myself. I can't deny that the multiplex novelty held my attention for a number of years. I spent my money there, enticed by the idea of surround sound, better seats and more generous legroom (there's no denying that the Regal seats were back-killers after 2 hours) never believing that in doing so, I was helping to put my childhood movie palace out of business. Had I thought about it, I think my loyalty would have prevailed.
I actually worked at the Regal once, in the summer of 1996. I had become friendly with the manager, Karl Woods, as we were both fans of film and he had come to recognise me as a regular. Karl was a nice guy - passionate about his job. When the place closed, he was about as "gutted" as the building itself is right now. But he offered me a job, ripping tickets and patrolling the auditoriums to make sure that no-one was behaving badly. And I loved it. Because it gave me a chance to see things from the other side. The projection room, the workings of the screen. And more than that, I used to love seeing people's faces as they, in turn, watched the films. Especially the kids - I'll always remember the look of wonder and astonishment as the mythic beast in "Dragonheart" burst from behind the waterfall, revealing itself for the first time in the movie. I find it hard to reconcile that the source of all these memories now lies in a pile on the ground.
But that's how it goes, I guess. It wasn't all me. Time and technology move on - you can't escape it. And nor could the Regal, unfortunately. It seems that in a modern world, that 1930's magic no longer has any place or use. But it will always have it's place in my life and memory. I hear rumours that the bingo hall (forgive me, I forget the name) opposite the cycle shop at the top of the town was to be converted back into a cinema. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen. But it would be a welcome occurance. I just hope that those responsible see fit to add some old fashioned style to the place, as opposed to creating a carbon copy of any number of cinemas in the surrounding area. Fingers crossed.
I can't say I was there in 1939, but I was there at the end. I went to the screening of "Grease" that marked the final hurrah for the Regal Cinema. I'm not a particularly big fan of that film, but that's not why I was there. It was a chance to say goodbye to an era. The send-off was great, spirits were high tears were flowing. I spent most of the movie looking anywhere but the screen, trying to take it all in one last time. It was hard to believe I would never see that big, beautiful space again.
I still have the souvenir ticket from that night. Think I'll frame it. And put it on the wall.
Like so many of the Northwich population that was brought up in another era, I have certainly missed ‘our’ Regal cinema.
I could not help feeling pang of sadness as it was brought down before our very eyes.
So many memories it would take me an eternity to put them down in an email, so here are the ones that are most prominent in my memory.
I can remember when Regal Two was being bulit and as a teenager in the late 1970s early 1980s getting to the cinema early so you could meet your mates for a quick drink in the bar (there seemed to be no binge drinking then).
The cetificates then were U, A , AA , X , and I went to see them all.
From going as a small child with my mum to watch Carry on Camping, Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, South Pacific – it seemed like another world.
Then as my adolescent years approached along came Star Wars, Capricorne One (fab film) and so on.
Then at 16/17 the in thing was to try and get in for an X certificate, I can remember Dirty Harry was being shown and I so wanted to see it.
I paid my money and as we approached the stairs the manager of the time was always stood at the top in his suit and tie (standards back then).
"Look him straight in the eye," my mates would say then you don't look nervous, he would take your ticket "STRAIGHT ON " he would say and PHEW !! what a relief we were in.
As you went up the stairs you had a sense of excitement not just about the surroundings or the film but of who was also there – as you approached the top of the stairs the first thing you did was to look round and see who was in and more often than not you got a whistle off someone who knew you.
Then the old "Pearl and Dean" advertisements would come on and "Jack Gee's" shop was always on there.
Until the mid-1980s you more often than not got two films – a B film and the main feature or a double bill (what value for money!)
I can remember vividly watching various double bills Amityville 1 and 2 together , The Wicker Man and Don't Look Now, Saturn 3 and Hawk the Slayer, Tarka the Otter and Run Wild and Run Free, and many many more.
The first adult film I went to see was Midnight Express and it stayed with me for weeks. Full Metal Jacket was another, Poltergeist, Who Dares Wins, Lemon Popsicle, Going Steady, Porky's and on and on.
I also remember between the B film and the main feature that two ladies dressed in red would walk down both the far aisles get to the bottom and two lights would shine above them "tubs or lollies" and the queue seemed to last forever as the cinema always seemed packed – after all we only had three channels on the TV and the internet seemed a million light years away.
When the lights went down cigarettes lit up all over the cinema and a pall of smoke hung over the place, then we had smoking on one side only and I still chuckle to myself when I think of that as it was to blow over anyway!!
A powerfull memory is of when The Excorcist was shown and people were screaming and running out of the cinema and the St John's ambulance was in attendance.
In contrast I can remember watching "Crocodile Dundee" and I got the last seat in cinema, one on the front row, and people were having hysterics with laughter. Memories! Memories!
Then of course right at the end you had to stand up for the national anthem and many tried to run out to catch the last bus.
I could go on for ever with this article and as I am writing it my head is awash with memories and films I have experienced at the Regal and I feel a great loss.
With me it is not rose tinted memories The Regal played a massive part in my life for a big part of my life. Probably most weekends for 10 years – it was the focal point, meeting venue, socialising venue for my generation and before.
I am grateful to have experienced the Regal in its hey day and the memories will always stay with me.
We must look to the future though as we cannot live in the past and I am sure we all look forward to a ‘new Northwich as the vision seems spectacular.
I worked as projectionist and assistant manager between 1995 and 1998 at the Regal next to the full time Manager Karl Woods. I remember my fist day as trainee projectionist I was scared to death. The roar and rattle as the huge machines fired up and began to take up the spool of celluloid.
I expected the film to tear and melt under the heat of the lamp and whirling sprockets every time. Which did happen a few times under the boos and chants of the disgruntled watchers below. But as the aperture was opened and curtains drew back I never got over the awe as this magical moving picture played out on the silver screen, Two huge film spools each two and a half foot across turned and brought the actors to life below.
I remember the stone steps that led up to the Regal's projection boothes , The right side had been worn down in a concave fashion through years of footfall from the projectionist that had finished shortly before I had started, He had his shoe heel made up as he had a club foot I believe and had been assistant projectionist to Brian the main projectionist who had served the cinema for many faithful years before, In the corner of Regal 1 their were another two older Peerless Projectors much older than that of the ones in use.
These had a carbon rod that had to be adjusted about every fifteen minutes. These created a bright spark that was reflected in a mirror behind the film which in turn projected the image to the screen instead of the bulbs used of the day. These had last been used years before in unison to show Jaws in 3D. An idea that had still to catch on even then, More than anything the thing I miss the most of the Regal it was an independent cinema not the multiplexes of today where the atmosphere is clinical in it's approach to customers, The warmth and welcome feeling you received from the Regal oozed in bucket loads. You could discuss up and coming films with customers before they were shown and listened to their views on the films watched afterwards.
Their childhood memories and stories of films watched so long ago when when all cinemas were called fleapits, fleas or not!.
The intermission and looking forward to the icecream lady with her plastic or wooden tray hanging around her neck and hoping that the rasberry ripple had not been sold out.
And the ever watchful ushers who escorted out the kids who had been let in through the toilet doors by their mates, which I was one of all those years prior as a youngster. Sorry Regal!
Yes fond memories of working their and the wonderful movies that passed by my young eyes.
Goodbye Regal and all the wonderful people who worked so hard over the years from cleaners to ushers and projectionists.
And thank you for the fond memories you gave us. you will be missed.