My Interview Subject
The interview subject I chose for this oral history interview was my aunt, who lives in South London, England. I conducted the interview via Skype. The subject matter of the interview is: going to the cinema before the changes in movie-going were ushered in by home video and cable. As I knew my aunt was a cinema fanatic in the 1970s, I thought she was the perfect candidate.
Questions to the Interviewee
1. What sort of features did you see in South London cinemas in the 1970s?
During the 1970s, my local cinema, which was the Odeon, Streatham, was showing double bills, which meant 2 full length films, even if they were not suitably paired. The films were mainly American, although a small percentage were British.
2. Did the cinema have separate showings?
Generally speaking, my local movie house did offer separate showings. This system was quite fun, as you could turn up whenever you liked, so this meant that you might sit down in the middle of the film. So, for just one ticket, cinema goers like myself were able to enjoy 3 or 4 hours of recreation. On many occasions, I would spend hours at the cinema watching both films twice, so 4 films one after the other.
3. Do you remember many re-releases?
Yes, there were a lot of hugely popular film rapid re-releases. I particularly remember famous American series such as the 007 films, Pink Panther, and Planet of the Apes. The re-releases on double bills were fantastic, as I had often missed out on the first release dates, and this allowed me to catch up.
4. Were the cinemas full on Saturday and Sunday evenings?
Well, the queues outside were definitely longer than they were during weekdays. And as this era was before multiplex cinemas, the seats were very limited. So if I went with a friend, and we were not lucky, we would have to wait for around 2.5 hours to the next showing, or go back another day, which is what we always did.
5. How different was the ambiance in the cinemas of the 1970s compared to today?
To me, they were wonderful. They often had glamorous red velvet curtains which used to open and close at the start and end of a session. There were also ushers who would point their torches to shown patrons where empty seats were when the lights were off.
6. Did the films have intermissions?
Yes, there was always an intermission. And it always came at an appropriate part of the film, such as a cliff hanger. This was part of the cinema magic; and it also gave people a chance to buy an ice cream or go to the restroom.
7. Do you think that the standard and production of US and UK films was better in the 1970s?
Most definitely! Even though the technology was no where near that of today, I found the whole film experience far better and nicer. The actors and actresses were outstanding professionals, and the substance of the films seemed far greater too. The duration seemed a little longer as well.
8. Did you attend premiers?
Well, I did, but in the UK, we were forced to wait for a long time for America to finish up with their film prints. So the delay usually meant that we would have to hold on a whole 12 months before they crossed the pond.
9. When the US premiers finally arrived in the UK, were they shown nationwide?
No, the scenario was nothing like today. Due to the way that the films were stored on reels, they could only be premiered in one location, which was London. After a few weeks exclusivity there, other cinemas such as my local, the Odeon in south London, received the reel.
10. What were your favorite types of film genres?
My favorite genres were romance, musicals, and comedy. Most of these were American.
11. Who were your favorite actors and directors, and did you send them fan mail?
My favorite actors were Elizabeth Taylor, Roger Moore, and Julie Andrews. In am not familiar with the names of directors. I did not send them fan mail, but I used to read about them in magazines and newspapers, along with associated film reviews.
12. What was your favorite film of the 1970s?