MRS TITTLETATTLES BIGGER PICTURE
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Mrs T gets on her soap box to bring you all the chit chat,news and comments
concerning your local Picture house The Woolton.
MYTHS & LEGENDS
Mrs T debates the good old fashioned cinema
intermission and lifts the lid on Hush-Hush ice cream
Read more on this story
Is it time to freeze out unauthorised ice cream Intermissions ?
Sitting on the 81 bus the other week on the way to Woolton village I overheard a conversation between two
youngsters which went something like this. “What you doing later Adam?” asked one of the boys “I’m going to the
flicks to see a film” replied Adam, “Are ya going to the Woolton Picture house? asked his friend ”Yes” said Adam
“its boss there they have a proper interval half way through the film so you can go to the bog when the lights go up!”.
Hm well okay maybe not something high on my list of priorities for choosing the Woolton picture House in favour of
the Odeon, although after downing a extra large cup of ice cold coke before the start of the main feature on my
previous visit there, I did find the sudden and unexpected intermission a much welcomed break and the importance of
the youngsters logic immediately struck a chord..
It also raises the question why is it no matter how long films are, most cinema audiences are expected to sit through
the show from beginning to end without an Intermission break in sight. In fact if they are any longer when the next
instalment of Avatar comes to an Odeon theatre near me I will most likely have to wear my surgical stockings as well
as my 3d specs to enjoy the cinematic experience!
So how is it when you do go to the Odeon, or for that matter other Cinema’s in and around Liverpool, you are
expected to endure a derrière-aching long haul epic from start to finish without so much as an illuminated ice cream
attendant to help restore your circulation? Older cinema patrons no doubt remember the days when having an
intermission break was common practice, especially in epics such as, Gone with the Wind, The greatest story ever
told, The Ten commandments etc, when it would have been a sacrilege to run the show without one. So surely there’s
something amiss if the modern day multiplexes have seemingly overlooked a money making opportunity to captivate
their audience, stop the film dead in its tracks and sell fridge loads of ice-cream to everyone, haven’t they ?
Well if the truth be known quite a few cinema owners and patrons alike would probably be happy to see the return of
the ice cream sale intermission if they were given the choice. The crux of the matter is that all UK cinemas or more to
the point all rule abiding UK cinemas are no longer permitted to edit their own unofficial intermissions into the main
feature film as they regulary did in the past.
So why’s that then Mrs T? You might ask
Good question I shall enlighten you. The policy to do away with the so called “unofficial intermission” has been in
force now for several years, it is part and parcel of the contractual agreement between the cinema operator and the
film distributor who provide the film to the cinema. The strict clamp down came about partly due to changing public
trends in the 70’s & 80’s and mostly due to pressure on the film distributors by aggrieved executive film directors,
who argued that their cinematic works of art were forever being ruined by DIY cinema intermissions. These illicit
intermissions, put there to boost confectionery sales when the film did not have an official intermission were usually
edited into the film by the chief projectionist on the say so of the cinema manager, without the consent or knowledge
of the people who owned the film.
Initially the instructions to do away with them proved virtually impossible to implement. The main stumbling block
being that many cinemas’ still used the tower type film carrier equipment and at the time it could only accommodate
around 135 minutes of film per spool. Longer films using this system therefore had to be split into two half’s with an
Intermission mid way in order to lace up the second part of the film on the same single projector they only had.
However with the advent of Digital projection, film platters and thinner 35mm film stock for the tower system, it
allowed even the most archaic cinema equipment to run epic films for much longer without the need for a stop and
consequently the “unofficial cinema intermission” became a thing of the past with the decision to have one or not, put
firmly back in the hands of the film director.
So how come when other cinemas up and down the country are not allowed so much as a sniff of a unscheduled “ice
cream intermission” during the main feature, It was often a safe bet to go along to the Woolton Picture House and you
would find one? Could it be because the Woolton Picture House remained in a timeless bygone age were the rules
don’t yet apply? Or was it because their equipment was so old they had to turn the projector off for ten minutes during
the show to cool it down? Or how about the age old excuse… Because the projectionist had a dodgy back and the
spool was too heavy for him to lift it unless he splits the film into two half’s.
Well the answers much simpler than that, Those responsible for providing these unofficial intermission breaks did so
because they knew full well there was hardly a cat in hells chance of the film distributors finding out about it, and if
they ever did get caught with their proverbial pants down during one of these illicit intermissions, then they [the ones
breaking the rule] had a ready made list of intermission excuses pinned up on the projection room wall to get
themselves off the hook.
Okay well so what! you might say, good luck to anyone using their initiative to break the rules if it helps them sell a
few more ice creams, all the profits go back into the upkeep of the cinema don’t they? And their subterfuge isn’t
exactly going to hurt anyone, is it?
Wrong on both counts. The rights and wrongs of the debate are not as clear cut as they may first appear.
Now its not like Mrs T to chin wag! but just between you, me and these four walls it is understood the root cause of
the division was down to one or two of the more dominant senior staff at Woolton who refuse to give up the ghost on
unauthorised intermissions, as doing so meant a significant fall in their ice cream commission bonus, hence their
regular transatlantic holidays would feel the pinch. However the more honest staff amongst them [those who wanted
to abide by the rules] were finding themselves discriminated against and frozen out by the perpetrator’s intent on
breaking the rules. Sources close to the cinema say that following complaints in 2006 button pusher chief
projectionist Dave Parr received two verbal warnings from the previous owner of the Woolton picture house David
Wood who warned him in no uncertain terms to put a stop to the illicit practice. However it is understood shortly after
the untimely death of the cinemas owner, new owners took charge and the same rule breakers seized the opportunity
to reintroduce their illicit practice. Staff caught in the middle say it was no coincidence that 95% of the staff who
have refused to go along with this clandestine scheme are no longer working at the cinema. Another staff member
who wished to remain anonymous said “Its fair to say that there are one or two little hitlers within the building who
like to have things all their own way and if you don’t fall in line, they [the perpetrators] have ways and means of
making your position of employment at the cinema, both intolerable and untenable.
So there you have it. Next time you go to the Woolton Picture House and if the curtains do close abrutly half way
through the main feature for a unscheduled unofficial intermission and little Adam off the 81 bus bolts passed you
down the aisle heading for the nearest toilet,just as you put your hand in your pocket to buy another cornetto in the
belief all of the profits are going back into the cinemas upkeep,Then spare a thought for the trustworthy staff at
Woolton picture house who would if the scam continued most likely to be getting intimidated by a small clique of
money grabbing pocket liners accustomed to having things all their own corruptive way.
Website comment. From a neutral perspective, Having an interval during the feature film when you are not allowed
one, does not in itself appear to be the crime of the century. Nevertheless rules are rules and this particular rule could
lead to a cinema being black listed by the film suppliers if they break it with dire consequences on the business.
Senior staff at Woolton Picture House have a duty to lead by example in order to prevent their junior staff from being
unwittingly educated and nurtured into breaking rules in return for extra sales commission.More disconcerting is
hearing reports of fellow workers being bullied, intimidated and discriminated against by a small clique of senior staff
for simply wanting to do an honest days work in an honest working environment. The new owners of the Woolton
Picture House have a responsibility to make sure this doesnt happen during their tenure in order to safeguard the
reputation of the cinema and to protect the positions of the honest minded people who join their crew.
Update : the Woolton picturehouse has since updated their equiptment to digital,The contractual terms and conditions
of all latest digital release film distributors require cinemas to screen their films without intermissions