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Norfolk’s shortest lived cinema – The Studio in Gt Yarmouth

95gearast1In a loft over old coach houses at the rear of Theatre Plain in Gt Yarmouth long since demolished, existed perhaps Norfolk’s most short-lived cinema.

The enterprise was the product of the enthusiasm for the silver screen of a group of boyhood friends. The group included Mr E.C. Hunt who went on to become the president of the GT Yarmouth Film Society. The idea began as a boy when Mr Hunt was living on Wellesley Road with his family. He was given a toy cinema projector that used an oil lamp for projection and with his brother Peter, he arranged his first film shows in their nursery. As his interest in the cinema grew, he was given further projection equipment, until he had a full size professional projector with an arc lamp.

Mr Hunt was soon joined by others with an interest in moving pictures – Lewis Hayward, a Yarmouth architects son, John Watson and Colwyn Wolsey and they set up their own film shows three times a year in what they described as their ‘Model Cinema’’.

To enable the required throw from the projector to the projection screen in their house, they knocked a hole in the wall between two rooms and cut a door in half. The group even showed talkies in their tiny cinema with one of the first amateur built sound projectors. After holding screenings for eight years they decided to look for more purpose built premises.

Soon enough they discovered a large open loft in an old coach house near Theatre Plain and started work on building the new cinema in 1936. The big open room took three years to convert. The room was first divided in two, with the auditorium on one side and the projection room on the other. The interior featured a proscenium arch with red and grey curtains and an array of coloured lights which could be controlled from the projection room. The projection room, as well as a full-scale projector, had three gramophones installed. These were used to play the sound on film records that accompanied silent films and to play interval music. There was also a microphone and speaker system to provide commentaries for silent films. The whole set up was professionally installed and finished.

lac-aux-dames.5845After all the groups effort, on the 12th and 13th of April 1939, The Studio as it was called gave its first and only performances. The main film that was shown was “Lac aux Dames” which had been especially sent over from France by its star Simone Simon. The programme also included a Chaplin comedy and another short film. The screening was attended by many local businessmen and celebrities.

The next scheduled performance, however was cancelled due to the threat of WWII and the group of friends soon dispersed. Some of the group served in the war and Lewis Hayward was later shot down as a bomber pilot and killed. The Studio remained closed and Mr Hunt stored the equipment and continued to pay rent on his cinema until the end of the war in the hope that someone might start it up again. Sadly, they never did and the building was later leased for storage and eventually the equipment dismantled.



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