We retired after 44 years in the cinema business. We started as apprentice projectionists (yes, it was a trade in Scotland) in 1953. In those days, since we are identical twins, our employer (Odeon Cinemas) would not allow us to work in the same cinema. John was in a city centre cinema called the New Savoy and Peter was sent to the Capital in Ibrox. Both had GK21 projectors but on relief work at older cinemas we did use GK12 and old Weststars.
After being in a number of cinemas around Glasgow during our first seven years John went to the Odeon Cinema in Renfield Street in the centre of Glasgow in 1960 as a second projectionist using BTH Supas which were infamous for the fact that if you opened the top spool box door to check how much film was left on the spool, the projector shut down! The Odeon was a 3,000 seat cinema with full stage facilities, an orchestra pit (which could rise up and down) and an organ which did the same but also turned around too! During the 60s there were many one night stand live shows with many of the best known artists and groups appearing, including The Beatles. On their first visit of three they didn't even top the bill!
Peter went later that year to the Gaumont in Sauchiehall Street. The Gaumont ran 70mm road show presentations, one of which was The Sound Of Music which Peter screened for two years and eight months! Not his favourite film watching it every day for that time. It is the longest running film ever in Glasgow. The theatre used Philips DP70s using 70mm film with Mole Richardson water cooled arcs which used a rotating positive carbon. A wonderful light but they were for ever causing trouble. Water spurting all over the place! The DP70 projectors however were wonderful.
In 1970 the Odeon was converted into a three screen cinema with the loss of the stage. That is when we landed up working together. Victoria 8 projectors were installed to augment the Philips. In 1973 Cinemechanica 8s replaced the Philips. The 8s were far more reliable than we ever imagined when we first saw them. Their light construction compared to any other projector that we had been working with seemed that they would not last for long but we were wrong.
In the 80s the Carbon Arc Lamp which gave the light for the projectors, with the need of the projectionist to tend the burning carbons to keep the correct arc flame were replaced with the Xenon Bulb thus now not needing tending all the time and so cutting down on projection staff.
It was around this time that the Christie cake stand Autowind units were introduced enabling the whole programme to be run without the need to use reels on the projector and thus dispensing with change overs from one projector to the other and film rewinding.
Over the years the Odeon was further divided into a six screen complex which still included one of the largest cinema auditoriums in the UK with 1,200 seats and a screen of over 40 feet wide. Victoria 9s were also installed.
After we retired, in 1997 the Odeon lost that large auditorium because it was then split into four screens turning the building into a 9 screen complex and all the projectors are again Cinemechanica 8s and 9s along with Christie Autowind units. Dolby sound systems are fitted to all auditoriums. There are six projection rooms throughout the building and at times there is only one projectionist on duty. We are pleased that we have retired.
The Odeon Cinema, Renfield Street, Glasgow closed its doors for the last time on Saturday 7th January 2006. A sad day for the Glasgow cinema goer. The Odeon had lost its position of the cinema to go to in Glasgow City Centre. That accalade had been taken over by the nearby UGC Cinema Conplex, now Cineworld. Modern and purpose built as a multi- screen. Not a conversion as the Odeon was. But we will always remember the Odeon in its heyday. Queues around the building on a Friday and Saturday night. The buskers entertaining them. The wonderful atmosphere of the live shows in the 60s. Yes, we worked there in the best of times. And we’ll ever forget all that.
The site is to be developed into flats, offices and shops. The front facade is to remain and will be all that is left to remind Glasgow of that great cinema era. Rest in peace Glasgow Paramount/Odeon.
Today, the job we did all our lives is nearly non-existant. Most cinemas no longer need a projectionist as film has almost disappeared to be replaced in this digital age by computer files which can be handled by anyone who is computer literate.
Although we are now retired we still keep in touch with the business through friends who, like ourselves, were members of the Council of the Scottish Cinematograph Trade Benevolent Fund which has now closed and the Film + TV Chatity have taken over the work which our Fund did to help those who now or have worked in a cinema industry and who need financial or other help. You can read more about the SCTBF from here.
ng part of this worthwhile project.