Book review – Picture Palace to Penny Plunge

If you want to find out what and where the ‘Penny Plunge’ and ‘Twopenny Plunge’ were, then you should read David Cliffe’s fascinating book about Reading’s cinemas, just published by Two Rivers Press.

The pre-launch of the book was at Waterstone’s during this year’s Heritage Open Days. The launch itself included short historic films of Reading and took place on Wednesday 27 September at the Minghella Theatre at the University of Reading.

A reader could be forgiven for racing to the fascinating appendices of the book covering ‘films made in or near Reading’ or ‘actors and directors with Reading connections’ or ‘ownership of cinemas in Reading’.

Alternatively, it is tempting to look up your local cinema. ‘Catalogue’ or ‘directory’ are terms too prosaic to describe the character sketches of each of Reading’s cinemas and venues where films were shown from 1897 to the present day.

It is worth starting at the beginning of the book with the technical developments which brought us film as it is today, as well as the chapter ‘cinemas and performances’. Explanations are highlighted with local examples and the Reading focus in these chapters is one of the strengths of the book.

The writing style is perfectly balanced between entertaining and scholarly. There are illustrations of cinemas, programmes and events throughout.

Three cinemas once existed close to the Whitley Pump:

  • the London Street Pavilion (from 1920); a short phase in the life of the hall which became the After Dark Club,
  • Studios 1 & 2 London Street (1972-78)  above Shehnai,
  • the Savoy, Basingstoke Road (1936-1961); the cinema was demolished and  the site is now occupied by Cotswold Outdoor.

David Cliffe (pictured above) had a few requests to make of his audience. His researches and enquiries had failed to unearth the accounting records for any of the local cinemas. This meant that there were many unanswered questions about cinema costs and profitability.

There were also three lost films about Reading that he would love to find. A film was made in 1904 of workers leaving the Huntley & Palmers factory; in 1910 it is highly likely that a film was made of a political meeting at Reading Corporation tram depot at which David Lloyd-George was present, and a film was made in 1920 of the ‘Reading Historical Pageant‘ which took place at Reading Abbey.

Anyone who has any information about Reading cinema accounts or the lost films should contact David Cliffe via Two Rivers Press email: tworiverspress@gmail.com.

Continuing with films that were made in Reading; there is a scene in a Bridge Too Far (1977) that was filmed in Katesgrove’s Hill Street. Stills from the film, as well as others filmed in the area, can be found on Reel Streets.


Links
  1. Picture Palace to Penny Plunge
  2. Book signings for Heritage Open Days 2017
  3. Reel Streets More than 110 years of worldwide film and movie locations
  4. Two Rivers Press website, Facebook and Twitter
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2 thoughts on “Book review – Picture Palace to Penny Plunge

  1. Pingback: A Bridge too Far – the view from Hill Street | The Whitley Pump

  2. Pingback: ‘The Firefighters’ – location Katesgrove | The Whitley Pump

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