Thursday, 5 February 2009

Premiers and Promotions

In it's history the New Victoria / Odeon has screened a few film premiers in Scotland. In it's time the cinema was instrimental in helping to raise a considerable amout of money for various charities in and around Edinburgh and Scotland.

The New Victoria's first film premier took place on the 5th of January 1936. The film was The Passing of The Third Floor Back; starring Conrad Veight. All the money raised on the night went to the Edinburgh News papers press fund.

One week later on January 12TH there was a special concert held in the New Victoria in aid of the National Union of Journalists. The concert was quite an event, not only with the scale of the presentation; but in the performers that it brought together. Showing that the New Vic was not only a movie theatre, but a theatre in it's own right. There were actors and actresses, musicians from across Scotland there on the night. the cast from Puss in Boots showing at the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh were there. Lindy June, Florence Hunter, Jack Anthony, Cliff Harley, Jimmy McKinlay and Lucy Loupe. All adding their vocal support to the event. As well as their conductor Dave Willis.
Joan Cole from the Alambra in Glasgow, Bert Denver from the Metropole, Glasgow. Albert Burdon, Griffth Moss and Teddy Joyce and his band from the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. It was a masterly piece of organisation. In charge of the evening was Joe Petersen of Edinburgh's Theatre Royal Orchestra.

In March the same year another fund raising concert was held; although not to the same scale, this concert raised money on behalf of St. Raphaels Hospital.

December 1936 the film Everybody Dance was screened to raise money on behalf of widows and children of the Edinburgh Fire Service.

There was a few years gap before the next premier was screened which was the film Show Boat, starring Irene Dunne, Allan Jones and Paul Robeson. This was March 1939.

With the threat of war looming ever closer cinemas and theatres were used as points where goods could be collected in case the need of items arose. Slogans such as "Knit For The Navy" appeared in cinema adverts. Allowing items of clothing to be left at the cinema and passed on to the relevant people.

The Mikado which should have started it's run on the 1st of September 1939 should have been a premier.

Four years passed before the next film premier and charity screening took place. The film shown on that occasion was Powell and Pressberger's A Canterbury Tale. Starring the likes of Sheila Sim, Dennis Price, Eric Portman and John Sweet. And an early appearance of Charles Hawtrey of Carry on fame.

Another Powell and Pressberger film A Matter of Life and Death was the next film to be premiered in the New Victoria. Starring David Niven and Kim Hunter.

The Brothers premiered in the New Vic, with it's stars Patricia Roc, Will Fyfe and Findlay Currie all attending the event. Spending time on stage before the performance.

Other stars made special appearances at special showings, such as Robert Helpman; The Red Shoes, Rona Anderson and Derrick de Marney; Sleeping Car to Trieste. Jimmy Logan; Canon City.

In dealing with the charity side of things I should mention that in 1948 the Gaumount-Odeon/ Evening News-Dispatch Appeal was started. The idea was the brainchild of Mr Leishman, who at that time was deputy editor of the Evening News. Money came into the appeal not only through film premiers and special showings, but also in the form of gifts that could then be distributed around both the young and old of Edinburgh and the Lothian's. In these early days of names such as Haley Mills and Jack Warner helped distribute gifts around hospitals on behalf of the appeal.

The Odeon/ Evening New appeal also gave me my first taste (and last time in front of the camera) between 1965 and 1970 I was the chosen face being presented with presents from the Lord Provost Sir Duncan Weatherstone.

Other names arriving for Premiers were such as Russel Hunter, Andy Cameron and Lewis Collins.

During the run of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Carol Channing just turned up one day; she just happened to be in Edinburgh at the time, she introduced herself to the staff, then went on to make an unannounced appearance on stage.

Premiers were one way to help get an audience through the door, but another was that of the use of promotion.

Film trailers let people know what's coming, as do the use of stills and posters. Anything the distributors think will help sell the movie. Then there were the press previews. Normally about a week ahead of the detailed release. Thing with press previews of course is that you need a good reviewer.

A bit of promotion for the release of the film Cleopatra from January 1964 had one member of staff; Dorothy Kent photographed in a bath of thirty gallons of milk.

With the release of The Love Bug in July 1968, a Volkswagen Beetle in full livery was positioned in the foyer.

March 1979 with the release of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, an alpine rally "scalectric style was constructed. With the chance to win a holiday to the Alps if you were or could beat the lap record. Secondary prizes were the likes of film soundtracks and posters, etc. The bad news for anyone trying their hand was I spent most of my days playing and so it was my time that was used to decide the eventual winner.

One of the Odeon's most memorable promotions was for the showing of The Battle of Britain, where they had a full size Spitfire in the foyer.

Going back a bit there was one slightly different bit of promotion for the Disney film Savage Sam, where the manager ran dog's matinees Dogs and their owners got special rates to get in and the usherettes sold dog biscuits along with the ice cream and orange.

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