Some brilliant news in the Herald Express this week – a collection of organisations are getting together to try and restore the old Torbay Cinema in Paignton. Originally called The Picture House, it was the oldest purpose-built cinema in Europe when it opened its doors in 1914. It has been closed since 1999 when the modern multiplex Apollo Cinema opened its doors on the other end of the high street, in the old theatre building.
The cinema was a regular staple of our diet as teenagers. It has never had the modern qualities that people sought in the Apollo once it opened, but its old world charm was always part of its appeal.
So what of the future for this building? In my opinion, it MUST be put back into use as a cinema. I am quite relaxed as to the type of films it shows, although I can see a market for it juxtaposed to the Apollo down the road, showing art house, classic and non-mainstream Hollywood films which the Apollo won’t touch, as well as Harry Potter sized films with an extra bit of appeal ( I dare say arriving at the neighbouring train station on the Hogwarts Express would have been quite a draw).
But what is essential is that this building is a living, breathing historical monument. Its significance is as a purpose-built cinema, and it needs to be put to the use for which it was intended, not simply turned into another museum simply looking at the past.
There is a consultation meeting at Oldway Manson this evening (Tues 13th December) at 7pm. I will be there (despite it being my birthday!), and I encourage as many people as possible to coem along, have a listen, share ideas and get involved.
I’ll write again after the meeting.