The Robin Cinema in Burton and The Regal in Lichfield were our first local cinemas. The Regal, which opened on the 18th July 1932 was built in a lovely Art Deco/ Egyptian style and had just one screen with 1300 seats. Situated in the heart of Lichfield City Centre it sadly closed on July 10th 1974 and personally I only remember it as a Kwik Save. The Robin Cinema in Burton opened originally on March 11th 1935 as The Ritz. By 1996 it had been sub divided into 3 screens and had seating for 1600 people but was closed down when the Cineworld opened opposite.
The closure of cinemas such as these has been blamed mainly on poor car parking facilities, old technology and uncomfortable seats. The decline in audience figures went from their peak in 1946 of 1.6 billion in the UK, per annum, to the lowest in 1984 of just 55 million per annum.
Luckily the multiplex revolution arrived in the UK from America in the 1980’s when cinema was dying. The first multiplex in this area was the Showcase in Derby. The foyer was big and bright, you didn’t have to queue in the rain, you could park right outside and the seats were bigger, the popcorn was bigger, the ice creams were bigger, the screens were bigger, the choice of times and films were bigger. It was fantastic really.
25 years on, the love affair with the multiplex cinema is still pretty intense with the teenage market but not so popular with older audiences. The multiplex, is, without doubt a very standardised experience, focussing mainly on the biggest money making blockbuster films and selling the largest possible vat of popcorn and coke, which in turn does make you feel a bit processed. However, audience figures have stabilized at around 170 million per annum so it’s fair to say that the multiplex saved cinema in this country.
The Red Carpet Cinema won’t be a Regal or a Robin or a Showcase but there are lessons to be learnt from all three of these cinemas. In order to capture the old fashioned glamour of cinema we particularly admire Zefferillis in Ambleside and The Ritz at Belper. They have installed the larger, more comfortable seats and the up to date technology that multiplexes have, but also manage to bring the sense of occasion back into cinema going. We are shamelessly jumping on the bank wagon to bring a two screen cinema seating 100 people and 70 people in Barton under Needwood.
The way cinema used to be...
The Regal Cinema, Lichfield.
The Robin Cinema, Burton on Trent.