During our time working in Mansfield we met some wonderful people and heard some amazing stories, one of these people is Malcolm Appleby, who started work at Granada Cinema in Mansfield at the age of 15 in 1958. Malcolm has shared photographs and film with Past Lives Project and has written this following blog post below to share his memories.
CHARLES MALCOLM APPLEBY’S TIME AT THE GRANADA CINEMA, MANSFIELD.
I left school in 1958 aged 15 and the only job I wanted to do was to be a film projectionist. My father, Charles Albert Appleby, was a keen cinemagoer & he & I spent a lot of my early teenage years in local cinemas watching the stars of the screen who were popular at that time. The multicoloured beam of the projector light, made even more vivid by cigarette smoke, coming from the porthole at the back of the cinema fascinated me. I often wondered how many people worked up in the “box”; what did the job entail; how many reels of 35mm film made up a 2 hour feature film; what kind of high intensity light was used to make such a large picture so bright on the screen; how HOT would it get in that “box”? So many questions ran through my mind.
When I knew my school leaving date I made an appointment & went to see Mr Bush, the manager, at the Granada cinema on Westgate, Mansfield, Notts. The interview went well & I started work there in April 1958. I asked Mr Bush if I would need any special work clothes, to which he replied that no, just casual clothes that it won’t matter if they get splashed with film cement!
On my first day at the Granada Mr Bush introduced me to Alf Bailey, the chief projectionist, who took me up to the projector room. Alf explained to me all the duties that I would be expected to do & introduced me to my fellow work colleagues, Ray Walker, Mick Fowler, Dave Lumber & Billy Parsons.
There were 5 rooms up there, the main projection room with 2 large Ross projectors, a slide projector & onstage spotlight. The 2 projectors had high intensity arc lamps that needed cleaning out every morning which, as trainee projectionist, would be part of my job. At the rear of the room was a bank of Westrex sound equipment with various switches & dials. The second room was the rewind & make up room; the third room housed a spotlight & the other 2 rooms were used for storage.
Learning to thread up the projector was quite a skill, remembering to leave various loops of certain sizes so that the film didn’t tighten up & snap whilst running through the machine at 90 feet per minute. Each reel contained 2,000 feet of film, a 2 hour feature film containing 12,000 feet of film, so changeovers were required from one projector to the second one to maintain a continuous show. To enable this, cue dots appeared at the top right corner of the screen a few minutes before the reel ended, & the sound & picture were transferred from one reel of film on Number 1 projector to the reel of film on the second projector so perfectly that anyone watching the film wouldn’t realise that it had actually happened.
A normal day started about 10.30 am, when we would get everything checked & ready for the first film showing about 1 pm. Shows were continuous & would end about 10.30pm. This was repeated daily, Monday to Saturday. Sunday didn’t start until about 5.30 pm & we would have one regular day off in the week.
Films were delivered by FTS (Film Transport Service) on a Saturday night. A film was made up of about 6 reels so we were taking delivery of about 12reels in cans holding 3 reels each. These were heavy & had to be manually carried up from the foyer to the “box”, about 50 steps, so we were kept fit! Films were made up on Monday morning ready for the first showing on Monday afternoon. There would be a ‘first’ feature film, a ‘second’ feature film, Pathe Pictorial Look at Life, trailers for future films & adverts. All of these had to be put onto our own spools ready for running through the projectors . At that time we were showing continuous performances which meant that the public could go in at any time after the cinema opened about 1 pm and stay in for as long as they wanted to until closing time about 10.30 pm. Films were being shown 3 times a day for 6 days a week. Sundays there was usually a different film shown. Films we were showing around that time were; Bridge on the River Kwai, Pal Joey, Gigi, South Pacific, etc. They were all in stereo sound & cinemascope (which was later changed in favour of Panavision)
In the 1950’s the film industry was going through a rough time due to the increasing popularity of the new TV’s which people could watch in their own homes. A lot of smaller independent cineams had to close. In the Mansfield area there had been about a dozen cinemas but by late 50’s/early 60’s there were only Granada, Century (which was part of Granada group) & The Grand (later the ABC.)
The Granada tried to get people back through the doors by putting on live wrestling matches on a Friday night. These lasted for a month or so but, although very popular, weren’t really the answer to the dwindling audiences. They also had local performers on on Sunday evenings, including Shane Fenton (later Alvin Stardust)
Around 1959 Alf Bailey semi retired & was transferred to the Century cinema on Midworth Street, Mansfield (they only opened for an evening performance so Alf’s hours were reduced to suit his semi retirement) & the chief projectionist from the Century, Ken Robey, was transferred to the Granada. Again around this time the Granada manager, Mr Bush, moved to a different cinema & was replaced by Fred Dawson.
About 1959/1960 John Hamp, producer at Granada TV studios in Manchester, promoted live stage shows at the Granada on a Saturday evening & night. Lots of the popular singers & groups appeared including The Beatles, Cliff Richard, Helen Shapiro, Marty Wilde, Russ Conway, etc. along with up & coming comedians & personalities of the time like Bob Monkhouse, Jon Pertwee (who went on to be Dr Who), Hughie Green, Jimmy Tarbuck.
The Granada had been built as a cinema &, as such, had a small stage area not really suitable for these shows & didn’t have any dressing rooms backstage. To enable full use of the stage, the screen had to be made to wind up out of the way & the speakers behind the screen were pushed back. Extra spotlights were erected high above the front stalls for the extra lighting needed on the artists on stage. When the stage show finishd about 11pm Saturday night everything had to be put back into it’s normal place ready for the films starting again on Sunday. Dressing rooms were built onto the outside of the building on the left side of the stage. These stage shows took place about 4 times a year & they made Saturdays into long working days. We started about 8.30 am with the children’s matinees, then after that finished around noon, all the preparation of moving the screen, speakers, setting up lighting for the stage show & getting everything ready for individual artists needs, etc had to be done. We then had the 2 shows (5.30 pm & 8.30 pm) to do & finally clear everything away, so we weren’t finishing until after midnight.
I left the Granada in 1963 as I was getting married later that year &, although I loved the job, the pay was very low & not adequate to support me as a married man.
John Hamp in the early 1970’s went on to help up & coming comedians like Bernad Manning, George Roper, Ken Goodwin & Jim Bowen on Granada TV in a show called “The Comedians”