The British Movietone News Theatre London
Movietonews opened a News Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue in August 1930. It was a converted theatre previously known as the Avenue Pavillion. It was said the time, that the theatre attracted huge crowds on the first day and continued to play to large audiences for many years .
The audience were attracted first by the fact that it was showing a sound newsreel, and second by the fact that the show lasted less than one hour. Movietonews’ advertising slogan was “Round the world in Fifty Minutes”.
Movietonews produced special versions of the news to go into the new theatres which later opened up in London, Brighton and Manchester.
This allowed them to provide the news theatre with the latest news, when it was ready for showing, and not having to wait for the next general release date.
The big difference between the news theatres and cinemas was that the audience for the news theatres arrived and departed on a continuous basis, whereas with the cinemas, even allowing for “continuous performance”, the arrivals and departures were less frequent.
By the time I joined British Movietone News in October 1945, the news theatre had long gone. However, I used to spend many a lunch hour in the Studio One and Studio Two (even Studio Three and Studio Four) complex at 225 Oxford Street. There I could go into the cinema with my sandwiches and watch a newsreel from Movietonews and Pathe together with a number of travel films and documentaries. Sometimes I would see a Pathe Gazette. The news theatres enabled people to keep up with the news, that is the visual news, before the coming of television. As Gaumont British used to say “This is the Gaumont British News, bringing the world to the world”. All the great events of the thirties and forties, including the scenes of the war, were to be seen and some people wanted to see them without watching a feature film.
If I ran, I could get there and back within my allotted lunch hour.
For me, it was all part of the learning process where one could see the construction of newsreels and documentaries and to see the difference from one production company and another.
Additional links: The lost cinemas of Oxford Street
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