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Working as a projectionist

Staff at The Odeon Cinema, West Street. The current film is ‘Fort Apache’ starring John Wayne, released in 1948. I am on the right hand side in a fancy sweater.

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Started in 1934

My career as a cinema projectionist started in 1934 at the Court Cinema, New Road. From there I went to work at the Deluxe Cinema on North Street. From North Street I went onto the Odeon at Lewes. In 1937-1938 I was transferred to The Odeon in West Street; when I worked there I was known as ‘Bob’ because there were too many Jacks and Johns. This beautiful theatre had just opened, and this was the golden age of cinema. The entertainment was affordable and enjoyable, and cinema played a huge role in the social life of Brighton at the time.

Great ‘programme presentation’

The management at The Odeon had daily staff meetings and worked hard to plan a perfect ‘programme presentation’. This included deciding on the right lighting and stage colours to suit the programme. Music was chosen to suit all films from dramatic to fun and exciting films. All this planning was done with the intention of presenting an environment that allowed the audience to get lost in the enjoyment of the films.

Do you remember this cinema? What films do you remember? Post a comment below

Checking audience reaction

I remember going into the auditorium and watching for audience reaction. For instance, in ‘The Guns Of Navarone’, a climber attempting a rock face disturbed a large bird. From silence to  sudden screech – I could see people jump out of their seats. Then there would a very different audience reaction for something like the Bob Hope comedies. Then I would see the enjoyment and hear the laughter.

Pre-West End screening

The Odeon was considered a first run house – screening programs before presentation in the West End of London. I worked here from 1937 until I left for my RAF service 1940 – 1946. I returned after the war and then worked again at The Odeon until 1953. During the war years there was a curfew from seafront to Western Rd at 10.30 pm. There were no lights anywhere, but the buses had blue lights inside; all transport had hooded lights. I have wonderful memories of my experiences at the Odeon; they were very happy days.

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The Odeon West Street projection room 1948 :I am far right.

Comments about this page

  • Wow Jack – what a fantastic page. All those members of staff – and you all look so happy – certainly looks like you all enjoyed your job. Did you ever get bored seeing the same film over and over? And what about the size of those projection machines! Bet cinemas don’t look like that now. Hope to hear more of your times in the cinema.

    By John Dunn (08/06/2015)
  • I counted 41 people in that photo. Can you imagine a picture theatre with one screen today supporting 41 employees. Amazing! Times certainly have changed.

    By Eric Cook (10/06/2015)
  • Hi Jack, lovely photos. My father was manager at West Street in the early fifties, Derek Langley.  I wonder if you remember him.  Sadly dad died nearly thirty years ago but he recalled his time at the Odeon with great affection. I took my first ever steps in the foyer at West Street! Hope to hear from you.

    By Neil Langley (10/06/2015)
  • Hi John. Thank you for your comments – the page was put together by Jennifer – I supplied the material. Boring was never a word I used – I can only remember a time when a Gilbert and Sullivan “The Mikado” was shown 5 times from early morning for 3 weeks. But I was a lot younger then and it wasn’t my cup of tea. The projectors were BTH Super 8s and different than the other standard style replacement. They were silent running and at first look size like elephants very efficient machines.

    Eric – the photo included all staff – including cleaners and sales members. The auditorium had 2,300 seats. I remember the days when there would be lines at least four deep stretching around the corner of I believe Russell Street.

    Hi Neil. I was certainly there at the time your dad Derek was around. We must have had many conversations. There were always happy times. Glad you enjoyed the photos, I’ve stored them for many years.

    By Jack(Bob) Odom (21/06/2015)
  • Hi Jack , fantastic picture of the projection box with the bth supers. A friend of mine worked with these projectors at the Palace cinema Redcar and to this day he says they were the best projectors he has ever worked with. Do you have any more photos of the projection box? Thanks and kind regards.

    By Malcolm Crow (23/12/2015)
  • Hi All, I worked as projectionist under Mick Griffiths in 1956/8.

    By John Dine (12/05/2016)

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