We’re in the business of resurrection here at the Regal Group.
The very act of restoring the faded cinemas and theatres of the world is, in itself, a task that involves dredging up long lost techniques of the past.
Whenever we take on a new project, we have to involve ourselves in a variety of methods in order for us to be able to assess the condition of the build as it stands and get a clear idea of what we need to do.
In some ways the task of restoring an entire building is not too dissimilar to renovating a classic car.
An expert in, say, Porsche 928 parts for restoration, would need to be just as well versed in how the particular parts of a certain model of a 911 fit together as we would an outdated make of projection system. Just like the historically minded mechanic, we would need to source discontinued spares to ensure that our own machine ran as smoothly as it did when it was first built.
We’ve got our work cut out at the moment.
The entire team is tackling a project that has us working round the clock to renovate a dilapidated cinema in time for it’s grand re-opening in December.
Early Cinema architecture here in the UK was heavily influenced by the grandiose designs of the Theatre and Music Hall traditions. Wanting to attract large audiences and instil them with a similar sense of wonder that they would have had at a traditional live action show, the designers of these early Cinemas focused on recreating the intricate plaster gilding and using similar thick, velvet drapes to evoke a sense of luxury and wealth.
As the Cinema quickly started to overtake the Theatre as the most popular form of Entertainment for the paying public; mass production of cinemas forced architects to think more pragmatically about their designs. This led them to abandoning the grandiose nature of Theatre in favour of the Art-Deco design that defines some of the most iconic cinemas in the world, such as Shanghai’s Cathay Cinema and the UK’s Odeon Cinema in Birmingham (closed in 1962, but surviving today as a Bingo Hall).
Despite the ornate nature of American Art-Deco cinemas, the form of the style that British architects adopted from the 50s onwards is a reflection of the speed that they were required to work at, as well as the limited budgets they were stuck with. Grand and austere in their own way; these buildings stand out from the ugly concrete tower blocks of the time.
For this particular project, our work has primarily been focused on replacing the outdated projection gear in the single screen theatre and reupholstering the entire building.
Footfall is a major contributor to a feeling of disrepair in cinemas and this case is no exception.
Many of these ex-Art Deco buildings have had their original carpets replaced with cheap alternatives – usually a decision made by margin-wary owners. Our first suggestion was to reinstate these thick lush carpet. They might well cost more and be tougher to clean, but they last much longer than the cheap stuff and they look gorgeous. A similar approach will be taken to the seats, which have certainly seen better days.
As far as projection gear goes, we’re currently on the hunt for a 70mm projector, similar to one that would have originally been used in this place. The popularity of this format is on the rise and we’ve convinced the owners to invest the time and money in tracking one down.
All we have to do is find the parts and piece one together…