Our visit to 'the pictures' to see Titanic 3D has me pondering the difference for a modern movie fan compared to those back when the 'unsinkable' ship was sunk.

The Curzon cinema ('The Picture House') in Somerset, England purports to be the oldest continually-running purpose-built cinema in the world. At it's opening on the same day as Bram Stoker's death, 20th April, 1912 the mood was fittingly more sombre than the celebratory evening anticipated, as the first matinee raised funds for the survivors & relatives of the recent sinking of Titanic. It was soon to become the first building in the area to have electricity, but for this night the film would be projected by gas.

The staff kindly "squirted disinfectant about during the performance in efforts to keep the atmosphere wholesome" this being a year before the addition of a sliding roof for ventilation (presumably necessary in an era when smoking in public areas was almost compulsory).

Entrance for moviegoers was 3d, 6d and 1/-. Sounds a little more reasonable than our Vue entrance last night - £35 family ticket plus £15 for four drinks. Explanation enough why we usually choose to frequent our local 'Hollywood' cinema. Sadly it seems the days are gone when cinema was seen as a relatively affordable treat for the working class family. I was pleasantly surprised on our last family cinema trip (Puss in Boots) to be treated to a pre-show Toy Story 'short'. I used to love having something extra before the main film as a child. Instead last night we were able to 'enjoy' a full half hour of adverts & trailers. Essential, I'm sure you'll agree, when you're about to watch a 3 hour movie.

The running time was a little more manageable for patrons back in 1912, when it was considered that the public wouldn't be able to sit through an extensive screening. How familiar the titles of that year remain to us now with releases including Cleopatra, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Richard III, Robin Hood & Oliver Twist (to quote IMDB, "This is the earliest known, if not the first feature length American film. Of the film's original five reels however, only four of them survive. Please check your attic.")

Surely the most unusual film release that year, perhaps one of the most intriguing in cinematic history, was Saved from the Titanic featuring Titanic passenger, and prominent actress of her day, Dorothy Gibson. (One of the highest paid stars at the time, she needed to be, considering a first class ticket then was $4,700, which roughly equates to $57,000 in today's money!)

Actually a 10 minute short, rather than a movie, it has unfortunately become one of the vast number of lost films having succumbed to a studio fire in 1914. Remarkably, Ms Gibson starred in this semi auto-biographical role a month after her ascent into the very first lifeboat. She would go on to wear the actual outfit she wore that night for the film short she went on to write & star in. The Carpathia came to Titanic's aid that fateful night, run by the still operating (and luxurious) Cunard Line, which interestingly would merge with the operator of the doomed vessel, White Star Line, in 1934. Touchingly, Cunard use the term 'White Star service' to describe the level of excellence they expect for their passengers.

As an interesting sidenote, my own beloved Great Nan (Rose, born 1911) was supposed to emigrate to Canada as a baby, but her mother was so shocked by the recent sinking of Titanic she refused to leave. So Nanny Rose's father left for Canada whilst Rose remained in London's East End altering my family's future destiny. The family stayed in Hackney where Rose married....Jack.

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2 Responses to “The Titanic shift in the movie experience”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Interesting the effect the Titanic had on your family. My Great Uncle was supposed to sail on it to finish some carpentry work but my Great Aunt saw it sinking in a dream so wouldn't let him go (she claimed to be slightly psychic and had been right about some things before apparently).

    Hazel Rea = @beachrambler  

  2. # Blogger Vicky Cockett

    i find everything about the Titanic so sad and yet so fascinating. xxx  

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