Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Happy Birthday Dukes
On September 22nd, 1910, crowds lined the streets outside a brand new building in Preston Circus, where Dame Violett Menotta, a famed West End actress, was opening a new cinema with an elegant Edwardian frontage on the site of an old brewery.
The Byways of Byron was the very first film to play, and the Dukes one of the earliest purpose-built cinemas in the UK. After 15 years in town halls, churches, penny gaffes and tents, the cinema had grown up, moved out and got its own place. Four years later an usher from the Dukes would fire the opening salvo of World War II in France, and cinema building would come to a halt until 1918.
Still standing, unaltered (apart from the naughty legs) the Duke of York's is the oldest cinema in the UK, and in my humble opinion, the best. Not only is it a architectural beauty, it has bags of atmosphere and a truly eclectic programme. It also serves as a cool venue for all kinds of stuff and seems to attract really cool people as staff and customers.
Tonight, we're celebrating by showing CASABLANCA and using all the money we make to repair our old clock. As they used to say, 'bring her to the Dukes, it's fit for a Duchess'.