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Towcester Cinema - Projectionist, films, storm damage
Projectionist Bernard TyrrellProjectionist Bernard Tyrrell
Towcester Cinema posterTowcester Cinema poster
Storm damage to roofStorm damage to roof
When the cinema opened in December 1939 in Britain the phoney war had developed into real war. The first projectionist appointed, Eric Randall, was called up for military service almost at once. The next projectionist was a 12 year old boy Bernard Tyrrell. Though very competent he had to be supervised by lady over 18 to comply with employment regulations. Bernard Tyrrell was to be associated with projection in Towcester Cinema from 1940 until its closure in 1973.

The reputation of a cinema rests firmly on the shoulders of the projectionist. The public want to see a clean print, in crisp focus and with no hairs or dirt spoiling the picture, a flicker-free steady light output, good sound levels and accurate change-overs from one reel to the next. These high standards were meticulously maintained by Bernard Tyrrell.

During the war the cinema was a great morale booster and also helped people to escape briefly from the worries of wartime conditions. The cinema continued successfully throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

Writing in a local newspaper, date unknown, Tony Elsby reported:

"Despite the nation's troubles, those were halcyon days for the cinema, with "queues four abreast from Sawpits and Salmons Shop to see the films," according to local amateur historian, Harry Williams.

At its peak the cinema opened every night. They even got special permission to open on Sundays after the evening church service - very unusual in those days - while, on Saturdays there were two shows plus a morning matinee. People swarmed into the town using "picture buses" from the villages like Potterspury and Greens Norton.

One moment of excitement occurred in the late 1940s when the cinema roof blew off in a terrible storm. The event was witnessed by Tom Knowlton,

"I was just going home from my girlfriend's house and had to pass the cinema. Suddenly the air was filled with whirling sheets of roofing. I legged it as fast as I could run!".

The storm damage to the roof and the flooding behind the cinema are shown in the photograph.

Sunday opening was introduced in the late 1950s. However, inevitably the effects of television were felt and the core cinema public began to dwindle.
The author wishes to thank Mark and Carole Tyrrell, Towcester, for access to the photograph of the late Bernard Tyrrell and the Tyrell archive.
Note from the author (16 June 2017) about the opening dates and the first film shown.

The accepted wisdom was that the cinema opened on December 5th 1939 and finally closed on 30th June 1973. However, according to the British Newspapers site there was a private opening viewing for Lord Hesketh and his party on 22nd December 1939. The main film was "The Three Musketeers" starring Don Ameche and the Ritz Brothers. The supporting feature was "Road Demons". This was retained for the (first?) public viewing on 23rd December. "As far as I can deduce the next show, presumably in January 1940, was "Kentucky", in Technicolor, starring Loretta Young. The support was "Safety in Numbers" with the Jones Family. The film in the second half of that week was "The Great Waltz" with Louise Ranver.
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