The Pictures

Of the two cinemas in the town, The Regal was the more illustrious. It was built in a typical 1930s art deco style and the interior walls were decorated with impressive cream and maroon speckle-painted motifs of clouds and raindrops. The drapes in front of the screen were plush red velvet made even richer looking by the clever lighting. Seats were also red velvet and the handrails, polished brass.

Each week there would be three films running for two nights each and on Saturday afternoons, a matinee for kids. Seats at the front were six pence and further back and on the balcony, nine pence. The one place that you had to avoid was the area just under the front of the balcony as the people upstairs would drop things on you - orange peel, ice lollies, whatever.

The shows usually started with trailers for upcoming films and then straight into the ads. The ads were always for orange drinks and ice cream that were sold by girls with trays during the intervals. Then there were the 'home made' ads scratched onto a piece of blackened glass to advertise local business.

The film shows would begin with a couple of cartoons. Sometimes it would be Woody Woodpecker or Tweetie Pie and Sylvester. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were popular but I was particularly fond of Popeye the Sailor Man and his spinach-fuelled superpowers.

Then came the serials. There were cowboys and indians, 'Atom Man vs. Superman' and something called 'Pirates of the High Seas' starring Buster Crabbe. The cliffhangers at the end of each episode were to get you to come back the next week. Somebody that fell to their death at the end of one episode would miraculously catch onto a tree branch just over the cliff edge and be pulled clear at the beginning of the next episode to continue their adventure.

When 'God Save the Queen' was played and the lights came up, everybody would rush for the door and out into the daylight. All the way home it would be finger shooting from behind lamp posts, clutching of hearts and falling over. The plots would be discussed for hours afterwards and even into the next day.

In the evenings, there would be two 'houses', one about six o'clock and another about half past eight. At weekends, films were usually of a 'family' nature. Again, lots of cowboys and indians – Roy Rogers, Gene Autry. Then there were the 'jungle' films – Tarzan and Jungle Jim, both stared Johnny Weissmuller. These tended to be a bit scary for children and I often had to hide under the seat because of ferocious animals or grotesque masks. One film with dinosaurs freaked me out completely.

Some comedy films could have frightening bits too. Abbott and Costello often met with movie monsters – Frankenstein, The Mummy and other horrors. Even 'Old Mother Riley' encountered vampires and ghosts in her slapstick adventures. For a six year old, this was all a bit too much and I would often be waking up with nightmares.

Joe Gillespie

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Joe Gillespie
Joe Gillespie

Joe reminisces about his childhood in Larne in the 1940s and '50s.