|I'M LUCKY ENOUGH TO
BE personally involved in local film-making, acting as stills
photographer. Here I showcase the work of two film directors
who I know personally, followed by more of Manchester's cinema-related
locations and to conclude, an excellent publication for those
interested in the history of local cinemas...
OLDHAM is the unlikely home of a film maker with excellent
Hollywood connections. I'm talking about Stephen Gibbons and
'Drug Abuse' is his first major film drama.
At 45 minutes, it's only half the length of a standard feature,
but it packs in a lot more excitement, tension, drama, passion
- and violence - than your average 'made-for-tv' film on the
UK's 'sin bin' Channel 5.
'Drug Abuse' was made to promote the career of Stephen Gibbons
and in mid-2000 it is being looked at by movie bosses in the
UK and the United States.
'Drug Abuse' was shot in and around Oldham, though the location
is actually incidental to the story - A very very bad drug
dealer - Stuart Wade (ex lead in Emmerdale, left) gets his
comeuppance when the girlfriend he abuses, Kirsten Doyle (
ex Heartbeat, Coronation St, right), gives him a taste of
his own medicine by spiking his carton of orange juice with
a mind-blowing cocktail of narcotics. In his fevered imagination,
he is pursued by the ghost of his uncorrupted youth and goes
through a series of frightening experiences, leading to a
It's great, though unfortunately you won't be able to see
it in the cinema or on tv, as it's not on current release.
However you can buy a preview copy of the video for £10
- Good value, and you never know, it might be worth a lot
of money in the future. Find out more on Stephen Gibbon's
See also the Eyewitness in Manchester People feature on Stephen
Cast and location photographs were taken by me and made into
this superb promotional poster by the director. The tunnel,
by the way, is the one under Hyde North Station, where some
of the action takes place. Over a pint recently at the Highfield,
on Ripponden Road, Oldham, Steve told me he now has a new
feature film in planning. Watch this space and remember you
saw it first here on Eyewitness in Manchester.
See my home
page for more of my film-related photos.
THE VAN BOYS
THE VAN BOYS is the first full-length feature by Didsbury-based
film director John McCormack. I first got to hear about it
in my 1998 interview
with Yvette Livesey, who had a major acting role in the
It was released on video in June 2000 - the photo shows VHS
copies for rent at Blockbuster Video, Fallowfield, Manchester.
The story centres on a group of lads who make a living stealing
paving stones for a crooked businessman. A shady smuggling
deal leads to the murder of one of the Van Boys (Paul Usher,
ex Brookside) by a criminal gang. His brother (played by Scot
Williams) plans revenge and a web of intrigue is uncovered.
In the end, the businessman is stitched up in a highly original
way, illustrating the old saying 'What goes around comes around'.
The Van Boys runs through a range of moods - comic, tragic,
fast moving, thoughtful, light-hearted, melancholy - and never
lets up in its pace. There's a great soundtrack including
a live performance by singing Van Boy Malcolm Pitt, in real
life, talented half-Irish half-African vocalist and entertainer,
who acted in 'The Full Monty'.
There are some great Manchester location scenes, but the
main reason to watch it is that it's a very entertaining and
watchable film and if you're in the UK, why not rent it now?
At a June 2000 outing to the Hogshead pub in Didsbury, John
told me that planning for his next film, Daddy Fox, is well
advanced. I've been commissioned to do the cast and location
photos for the film in Manchester and Corfu.
Keep visiting Eyewitness in Manchester and remember you saw
it here first!
THE CAPITOL THEATRE DIDSBURY met its demise in 1999, after
a life span of more than half a century. It was originally
a cinema and in the sixties was turned into a TV theatre.
The talent show "Opportunity Knocks" presented by
Hughie Green, was broadcast from here.
In the 1980's it was used by Manchester Polytechnic, later
Manchester Metropolitan University, for their drama degree
course. Successful ex-students include actresses Julie Walters
and Susan Cleaver.
Now the only record of the Capitol's previous existence is
in the development that stands on the site, 'Capitol Court',
and in photographs taken by me and other photographers.
Wanton destruction of a key piece of Manchester's architectural
and entertainment heritage to make way for a characterless
block of over-priced flats, or a necessary replacement of
a delapidated and worn-out building by a landmark development
of attractive and affordable new homes - the decision is yours!
THE PLAYHOUSE CINEMA on Oldham Road is another of Manchester's
lost picture houses.
The building was demolished in 1998 to make way for what
in mid-2000 is nothing more than a patch of grass.
The theatre had been little more than a decaying shell for
many years, of little use other than a structure on which
to place advertisement hoardings.
But many people remember it in its heyday, when Miles Platting
was a bustling suburb of Manchester, and not the depopulated
and recession-scarred place it is today.
Studying the overgrown and delapidated facade pictured in
my photograph, with a little imagination we can reconstruct
how this corner might have looked seventy years ago. Buildings
all around fill the empty spaces of today - a tram trundles
its way up Oldham Road, the air is laden with the smoke from
the factories and steam engines close by. Some people are
entering the lobby of the theatre, welcomingly illuminated
by electric lamps glowing warm in the murky Manchester light.
They pay sixpence each to see the latest Hollywood talkie...
THE PALACE CINEMA is alive and well and still open in Stalybridge
- a town that has managed to save more of its heritage than
This is a classic smaller-size cinema of the type that mostly
couldn't survive in the television age.
Somehow, this one is going strong. Let's hope it stays open
for many years to come.
THE FORMER ODEON CINEMA on Washway Road, Sale is a classic
cinema from the golden age of the movies, built in an Egyptian/Byzantine
It was threatened with demolition but has found a new lease
of life as a cafe bar.
THE CORNERHOUSE is Manchester's premier arts and cinema centre,
located on the corner of Whitworth St West and Oxford Road.
This site on Whitworth Street West, next to Oxford Road Station
has been occupied by a cinema since 1911. The present building
was constructed in 1935 and opened as the Tatler News Cinema.
In the era of the newsreel, people went to news theatres
to see moving pictures depicting the events of the day. When
TV news came along, the newsreels went into decline - I just
about remember them from my earliest childhood.
The Tatler spent its final years in the 1970's as a film
club showing sex films. Even now, the name "Tatler"
has overtones of tackiness - as schoolboys we used to joke
about it (Peter Scullion, where are you now?).
And then in 1985, the triangular building housing Shaw's
Furniture Stores was turned into the Cornerhouse, and the
cinema became Cornerhouse Cinema One. The entrance was remodelled
in 1997 with an eyecatching 'wrap-around' light feature and
new seats installed inside.
The Cornerhouse is the place to see art house and less commercial
films, as well as some mainstream ones too. There are also
courses in film - I attended 'Film Noir' and 'Novels into
Film' - they were excellent. Regular exhibitions are held
in the upper floors, and an activity programme for kids is
held on a Saturday morning. There's a restaurant, bar and
bookshop, and though some people say the clientele is too
'arty/trendy' Manchester would be very much worse off without
the wonderful Cornerhouse.
THE WARNER VILLAGE cinema at Cheshire Oaks, near Ellesmere
Port represents the cutting edge of present-day (turn of the
millennium) cinema design. I'd call it 'contemporary high
tech art deco'.
The architects have allowed themselves to be inspired by
the designs of the golden age of cinemas - the 20's and 30's.
The symmetrical shape, fluted exterior embellishments, gentle
curves and pale pastel colours recall the art deco hotels
of South Miami Beach.
The cinema has a number of screens, including a giant i-Werks
screen, similar in size and impact to Imax, one of which is
in the Printworks complex, Manchester (open Autumn 2000)
THE ODEON CINEMA is one of Manchester's original picture
palaces and in mid 2000 is the only mainstream cinema in the
heart of the city centre.
It was opened in October 1930 as the Paramount, with seats
for nearly 3000 cinema-goers. In April 1940 it became the
Odeon and so it remains to this day.
In 1974 it was 'twinned', and in 1992 it was further subdivided
into 7 screens.
I often go to the Odeon - it has a charm and grandeur that
out-of-town multiplexes lack. The top-floor foyer still has
an air of art-deco magic about it, though I'm not keen on
the exterior red and white tiles at pavement level.
Long live the Odeon, and in mid-2000, let's hope the imminent
arrival of new cinema multiplexes in the Great Northern and
the Printworks won't dent its audience figures.
THE ABC FORUM CINEMA, Wythenshawe Road Northenden, opened
in 1934. It had a Wurlitzer organ and could also put on stage
The sober art-deco- exterior, with its hexagonal ornamentation
and stepped back roof, has turned out to be strangely well-suited
to its use since 1976 as a meeting place for the Jehovah's
Witnesses religious group.
They restored the exterior and interior, with its 1930's
period interior, and on the day I took the photograph (Sunday
23 July 2000) two girls were carrying out repairs to the doors.
The cinema is illustrated in the book 'Looking Back at Northenden'
by Derek Deakin (Willow Publishing, 1983).
THIS CINEMA on Kingsway, Burnage, was built in 1928, when
this area was developed by Manchester Corporation as a modern
It was a cinema up till the 1980's (a friend saw the first
Star Wars film here with his wife-to-be), then it became a
Kwik Save supermarket. A fire gutted the building and the
rear part was demolished, leaving the old interior visible
As can be seen by the battered condition of these roadside
barriers, this area is in need of regeneration. Barriers like
these used to be in Piccadilly and are painted in light grey,
once the council's signature colour for lamp posts and other
if you have further info about this cinema.
THIS BUILDING on Cheetham Hill Road, Cheetham Hill, is a
billards hall, but it looks to me as if it might have been
a cinema in the past. Like many cinemas, both old and new
it has a pair of corner towers, these ones with pyramid shaped
roofs, an arched roof in between.
The former Greenhill Cinema, now used by Asian market traders,
is just next door.
Please contact me,
Cheetham Hill residents and expats, with further info about
MAGIC IN THE DARK - The Cinemas of Central Manchester and
MAGIC IN THE DARK written by Derek J Southall is an extremely
entertaining, informative, well-written and well-researched
history of the cinemas of central Manchester and Ardwick Green.
The author has also included newspaper adverts, archive photographs
and maps, as well as first-hand accounts of former cinema
usherettes, projectionists and cinema-goers.
It's a pity the book doesn't extend to out-of-town cinemas.
It also deserves a better standard of printing than the stapled
This is incidental however, as the content is excellent.
Anyone who has ever been to a cinema in Manchester ought
to buy this book and read it from cover to cover!
For more information e-mail info (at) aidan.co.uk
|THIS IS JUST A SMALL SELECTION of the cinemas,
old and new, that exist, or have existed, in the Manchester
region, and of the many locally-based film-related activities
and publications. More pictures and features will be added in
due course. If you have any suggestions, please e-mail info (at) aidan.co.uk
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