Due to the trip to Leeds and Bradford being cancelled my Tutor Seth Giddings offered to take me and my research partner Andrew Weston to Clevedon to visit the Curzon Cinema. After initially planning to look at the exhibition of ‘Motion Picture Marketing’ at the Media Museum in Bradford, I wanted to stick with the focus of british cinema. So I was eager to attend the trip that Seth had offered us.
Prior to our visit Seth had told us to download the Curzon Cinema’s app. This gave us insight into the cinemas history, with historical facts and in depth interviews with people that visited the cinema in its most popular days. The app also featured a QR scanner that could be scanned on certain objects around the cinema giving us even more information.
When we entered the cinema the Tour guide greeted us in the foyer. We were given a tour that wasn’t offered to all visitors and we saw some of the museums hidden gems. One of the first objects we saw was some of the original seating that the cinema used and also a recovered piece of the cinemas original wall and sideboard that was in place when the screen was at the front of the cinema in its very first life. We were also shown some of the cinemas first posters. The very first screening was to raise money for the families effected by the Titanic disaster way back in 1912. There was also a poster for a Charlie Chaplin film which offered a class for young children where they could learn Chaplin’s acting tricks; this was a very early way of cinemas generating more business.
We then were shown a timeline of the cinemas history that showed major events of each decade and also what happened to the cinema in that decade. From the building of the cinema in 1900 right up to 2010, the year in which the cinema gained lottery funding to pay for much needed restoration.
We then went up stairs to enter the main theatre. We were surprised to see an elderly man at the front just under the stage playing an organ. This happened regularly in the early days of the cinema and it was something that the cinema decided to use, to make visiting the Curzon a unique experience. The theatre itself certainly gave me a feeling that I had never experienced when entering a modern day cinema. The way it was kept in immaculate condition gave you a sense of awkwardness on entering, not wanting to damage any of the old furniture around the room. They had even kept the smoking areas in with ash trays fitted to the seats. This was something I had never seen before, I scanned a QR code to learn more. The tin walls of the theatre also surprised me again something which I had never seen before, but it added to the theatres grandness.
We then moved up to the balcony area where we were shown the theatres original roof. This roof was much more traditional than the one that had been installed in around the 1970’s this was to downsize the cinema and take away the balcony which was no longer functioning; as it was unsafe. We also visited another part of the cinema which was more like a museum with old projectors, merchandise and even an old ice cream sales board which was discovered whilst restoration was taking place. Whilst on this floor we were also shown the cinemas bar and function hall that was available for hire and was currently housing a theatre groups rehearsals.
At this point in the day me and Andrew were given sometime to think of what we could research for our projects. We both had initially wanted to focus on Motion Picture Marketing; but after visiting the Curzon we soon realised that this would no longer be appropriate. I decided that I would like to look at the Curzon as a case study maybe comparing it to modern day cinema, this is an idea that would need further development but the Curzon had definitely been an eye opener and gave me lots to think about.
At the end we were given an opportunity to ask the guide some questions as Andrew had his iPad handy he took notes:
- The Curzon was originally able to attract people as it was the only cinema in the area and people were intrigued by the notion of moving picture
- The opening night was a fundraiser for the Titanic sinking
- The local newspaper at the time ran a marketing campaign
- With the rise of television cinema audience numbers dropped meaning the cinema had to resort to being used to throw bingo nights
- Multiplexes then got the cinema crowds back
- Half terms and holidays are currently the cinema’s best times for large audiences and they recently brought out a ‘bring your won baby’ policy on day time screenings to attract families
- As children grow up the cinema captured the email addresses of mothers who had brought their children to build up a data base so they could send them emails of new releases and other updates
- When the film More Than Honey was first released local businesses from the Clevedon area set up stalls selling local food and drink
- When the zombie film Warm bodies came out the cinema invited the audience to come dressed as zombies themselves
- The cinema did a midnight viewing of Harry Potter and also did an event when they found out that the film Summer In Febuary was also the local book clubs book of the month