Memories of a 1960s student

An old friend recently found  a set of  35mm negatives dating from her Brighton Art School days in the mid 1960’s. She passed them on to me to scan. Among the many images I found were these of the old Continentale Cinema, Paston Place.

A Miles Byrne cinema
This was a Miles Byrne cinema. It showed, as its name implies, mainly foreign language films. The works of Bergman, Fellini, Truffuat and Jean Luc Godard, were all shown there on their original release. Myself, and my fellow film crazy art students seemed to spend most of our time there.

Queuing in all weathers
I can still hear in memory little bits of French or Italian dialogue with that curious, almost underwater wobble that the sound system sometimes gave them. We would queue outside, lining up in all weathers, to see Nouvelle Vague films as they arrived, which they seemed to do in bewildering succsession.

Falling in love with the stars
In 1964, I, and many others of my generation, fell head over heels in love with Jeanne Moreau in Jules et Jim, and then in turn with Anna Karina in Godard’s Bande Apart. If you look closely at the front of the cinema in the photograph, you will see that two films are advertised, De L’Amour with the above named Anna Karina, and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, that enchanting sung through musical directed by Jacques Demy  and starring Catherine Deneuve. This would date the photograph to around 1965, as the film’s original French release date of both films is 1964. Of course they could have wound up at the Continentale backwater a little later than that.

Unique viewing opportunities
This dear little cinema was the very lifeblood to us eager students. This was of course in the time long before Video or DVD, and there was no other way of seeing these films except on first fleeting release. The Continentale was Brighton’s equivalent of Hampstead’s Everyman, or The Electric Notting Hill, seemingly managed and run by individuals with a deep love of cinema.

Escaping on a wet afternoon
Obviously the beautiful Regent cinema was  a lot more comfortable, and the Astoria had peerless 70mm projection, but none of them showed the kind of films that we craved. Where else on a wet afternoon, escaping from a series of dreary typography classes, could you sneak off and watch the classic Citzen Kane two days in a row?

Films that cast a spell
Of course the sound in The Continentale wobbled sometimes. Yes, the screen was a fairly small and imperfect one, but what glories we sat through in those first runs. We watched the astionishing opening of Fellini’s Eight and a Half, sighing with pleasure as Anna Karina danced the madison, and weeping as Jules et Jim unfolded its lyrical tragedy. For months after my friend Michael Embden and I sported our own attempt at identifying with the characters in the film by wearing striped blazers and white trousers, even through the winter, so great was the spell.  

A local connection
A closer look at the photographs will reveal something with a local connection. Just visible is part of the poster for the film De L’Amour. This was printed from a woodcut and designed and cut in his very distinctive style by Peter Strausfeld, a German émigré artist and designer who taught part time in the graphic design department at Brighton College of Art in the 60’s. He designed dozens of film posters  mostly for the Academy Cinema in Oxford Street London. These were printed in very short runs and are now scarce and collectible. The BFI (British Film Institute) have recently made his work widely available reproducing his posters on a range of items.

I have no idea when the Continentale closed up shop, I moved to London in the late sixties and so shifted my allegiance to the Everyman and The Screen on The Green. Seeing the photographs brought it all rushing back.


Comments about this page

  • In the late 1944 my Mother was a cashier there. It was here during the same period that I saw “The Prisoner of Zenda” starring Ronald Coleman, David Niven, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr & Sir C. Aubry-Smith. A wonderful film.

    By John Wall VK2 (13/02/2010)
  • For more on the Continentale and Byrne’s other venue, the Prince’s in North Street, including then-and-now photographs, see QueenSpark’s excellent “Back Row Brighton: Cinema-Going In Brighton & Hove”.

    By Len Liechti (13/02/2010)
  • Wow, that takes me back; I spent a month or so conducting service three back in 1968, on FSF Lodekkas like the one pictured – perhaps the one pictured. See my posts “Memories of a 1960s BH&D conductor” for more info.

    By Len Liechti (13/02/2010)
  • Hey, look at the greengrocer’s apostrophe! “It’s” not as recent a phenomenon as you might think!

    By Len Liechti (13/02/2010)
  • Thanks for this photo! It’s of Crescent Place, where I lived at no 7 through the 50s and 60s. On the right-hand side is St Anne’s church hall, where I went to Brownie meetings. On the same side – opposite my house – was where Dora Bryan lived, and next door to her – in a newly built house among all the Victorian ones – the actress Flora Robson.

    By Sylvia Schwarz (nee Carroll) (14/02/2010)
  • The ‘house opposite’ that was formerly owned by Dora Bryan was the first house in which I lived in Brighton at the end of the 1970s. However, I wasn’t aware that Flora Robson had lived in the next house. If it was built around 1963, she was then living at 14 Marine Gardens, according to the plaque on that house. So I don’t think she could have lived in Crescent Place.

    By David Fisher (15/02/2010)
  • Not so recent, indeed. I found a greengrocer’s apostrophe in a local film advertisement from 1904.

    By David Fisher (16/02/2010)
  • Thanks for your comment David. Well, you may well be right about Flora Robson not having lived in Crescent Place, as I never actually saw her – or anyone else – leaving or entering the house, but I do remember my parents and the neighbours talking of her living there. That may have been some time after 1963 when it was built.

    By Sylvia Schwarz (nee Carroll) (17/02/2010)
  • I also saw Brigitte Bardot in ‘Light across the Street’ at the Continentale. I think we were supposed to be 16 years of age but we told a fib and got in OK.

    By Graham Sharp (04/03/2011)
  • I think it was about 1965 when I saw Saturday Night Sunday Morning there. The lady in the kiosk with short red hair would, after taking your money, leave the kiosk to usher you to your seat. Although only sixteen at the time, after seeing the film I went straight into The Somerset Arms at the bottom of Sudeley and ordered a stout and mild, just like Arthur Seaton in the film.

    By Mick Sutton (08/03/2011)
  • Hello. I knew Rosalind Merriman many years ago. And Ian Beck. I hope they are both well. Maybe say hello and tell me some news. Best wishes.

    By Neil Payne (27/04/2011)
  • The Continental cinema was a sort of risque cinema. As young teenagers we could look at the photos etc of up and coming films which always looked a bit naughty to me as a naive young lad. The only film that I ever saw there was a film called Macabre. If I remember rightly there was some idiotic hype that you might need insurance as the scary content was frightening. As I remember the film consisted of a skull floating around and doing whatever a floating skull does. Totally not scary at all.

    By Mick Peirson (08/02/2012)
  • I attended the Brighton Junior Tech in Hanover Terrace between 1950 and’54. Our French teacher there was a M Behar – very French. He would give us practical French lessons by taking classes to the Continentale. I recall the comedy “M Hulot’s Holiday”; “The Green Mare’s Nest” and “Clochmerle” the last of which was quite risque for 14/15 year olds! I recall seeing a rather erotic film there in the mid-sixties which was when the cinema was going downhill. John C Snelling

    By john Snelling (23/12/2012)
  • Yes, that was a lovely special way to see those films, especially with the ‘underwater wobble’ and I was lucky enough to have Peter Strausfeld as my tutor at the then Poly on Grand Parade. He was a lovely man and I loved him dearly – and I have collected some of his posters with the artwork. Magical wondrous times. There is a book about him, Eine Kolner Kunstler- copies are available on Amazon. I think he should have a Blue Plaque.

    By ken Standing (04/03/2013)
  • This page is pure Proust (for madeleine substitute ‘Continental’). We art students were lucky, this little, inadequate cinema (fleapit?) gave us Carne, Fellini, Truffaut, Bergman, auteurs who indelibly etched themselves upon our memories long after the so-called giants showing at the 70mm theatres, as those in West Street, had faded into insignificance (somewhere in the art college archives there is a black and white reel of 8mm that friends and I made heavily (!!) influenced by The Seventh Seal, some years back it turned up as ‘anon’ on a BBC documentary). Rainy Sunday afternoons in Paston Place. The fluttering of the soundtrack was our hearts. And Catherine Deneuve still retains her magic.

    By Martin Baker (21/09/2013)
  • The bus is shown on a link for the Continentale cinema. The bus is actually directly opposite the Odeon cinema and the Continentale is about 100 yards further along the road and then in a side street. (I can’t recall the name).

    By Graham Sharp (21/11/2013)
  • The Continentale cinema was in Sudeley Place.

    By Mick Peirson (22/11/2013)
  • Some nice photos, Ian. I particularly like the one of the Bristol Lodekka in St George’s Road. I should perhaps point out though that the old Continentale cinema was actually a little further east than Paston Place, on the western side of Sudeley Place.

    By Alan Hobden (23/11/2013)
  • My dad used to work as the projectionist there back in the mid ’50s, it was a bit of cash in hand for Friday night to give the owner a night off. My job was to go and get the fish and chips!! Loved watching those big projectors running, and my dad rewinding the film back onto the spools he could get the film walking along the bench. IIRC he told me the projectors were Swiss built – excuse the pun but they really ran like clocks, must be worth a fortune now but I suppose they got scrapped. Cheers Mickmatt

    By Michael Matthews (19/04/2016)
  • The Continentale, as I remember, wasn’t in Paston Place, but the next street along. Can’t remember the street’s name. (Opposite the bread and dripping shop). I remember seeing ‘The Wages of Fear’ there, late ’50s about trucks carrying nitro across the mountains. Good movie too. 

    By Kenneth Muzzall (04/07/2016)
  • The King’s Cliff cinema opened on this site in Sudeley Place, Kemptown in 1920.  It was renamed Continetaale in  1951.  It closed in December 1986 following the death of Miles Byrne and is now four dwellings.

    By Pippa Jones (22/04/2017)
  • Thank you Pippa Jones, that is wonderful information. Myles Byrne owned many cinemas over Sussex. He was a legend in cinema & film history, he has never got  the recognition he deserved. Most of the small picture houses in Sussex were his, he bought cinema to the public before television, unfortunately a forgotten & great man.


    By Terry Hyde (23/04/2017)
  • Yes, I agree, it wasn’t in Paston Place, it was in Sudeley Place, opposite the ‘bread & dripping’ cafe. I lived in Sussex Square from 1947 to 1953 and was able to watch a film there around 1952 when I was 14, as it wasn’t an adult film, it was a film about an early 19th century warship.

    I seem to remember that they sold cups of tea in the auditorium. My pal and I often had a slice of bread and dripping in that cafe, which was called “Tugwell’s”. I knew the owner’s daughter.    

    By Vic Bath (24/04/2017)
  • I went to the Continentale in 1972 when at the University of Sussex. The heating didn’t work very well and in the winter people used to wear fur coats ( very fashionable at that time)and take hot water bottles along.

    By Stephanie (29/09/2019)
  • The Continentale was a splendid little art-house cinema in the 1960’s as many earlier commentators have said. Alas, it fell into showing low-grade films and eventually closed in the mid 1980’s – not long before I moved to live close by in Sudeley Place. The building has been converted into housing.

    By Mark Gourley (19/04/2022)
  • I’ve been searching the internet all afternoon trying to find the name of this cinema and it’s location! I have a publicity still organised by Miles Bryne (or his son, I can’t recall) for a film festival in 1966 taken in the doorway of the Continental. My connection with Miles Byrne was through the summer show he produced in the Palace Pier theatre that year. I and a friend & school mate. We were two of the Brighton Belles and were roped in for the publicity shoot.

    By Mo Fone (23/07/2022)

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