In Conversation: Mike Bates 1982 – 1985

In conversation series:
Interviewer: Christina Reading
Interviewee: Mike Bates
Date: 14 April 2010

Mike Bates Audio


Mike Bates has always been a passionate admirer of Film. In 1982 Mike started studying Geography and Sociology at the Brighton Polytechnic . Later in the year he found himself working for the Duke of York’s Cinema and over the course of three years (1982-1985) was assigned to many roles there: usher, cashier, salesman and assistant manager. Whilst working Mike Bates also met inspiring projectionists Jimmy and Frank, also talented manager Eddy Block. In this interview Mike shares his memories about the cinema’s past, its architecture and interior, working relationships and the industry itself. Mike describes a cinema experience that was completely different to mainstream picture houses.

Dukes Work

Mike shares his memories of the changes that Duke of York’s was facing after the takeover of the cinema. He believes that these tensions helped him get a job there.

“I started in 1982 in the polytechnic and lived up the road from the cinema in Ivanhoe Road and walked past it quite regularly. At the time ownership of the cinema was a bit vague, and it was run as a sort of a collective. The cinema was then bought by couple of business men from Oxford, Bill Heine and Pablo Bucher. They ran a couple of groups of cinemas in Oxford. There was a lot of publicity about the take over. The people who have worked there objected, but they took it over in late 1982. I put my head round the door, because I was interested in cinema, needed a part- time job and offered my support. A couple of weeks later I got a phone call from the manager Eddy Block asking me: – are you interested, would you come and help? They programmed the Rocky Horror Show and we literally had a queue going round the corner. So that is how I started there. I went out on that particular evening, and then he asked me if I would like to work there on a more regular basis. I tended to work on Wednesday, Friday evening and a Saturday. I was involved in selling tickets, food memberships it was a member only club, but you could buy the membership for 50p.. ”

Secrets of the Cinema

“Then as time went by I graduated and there was a change in operating management of the place. A guy came down from Oxford to take over, but he used to go back every weekend, so I used to take over the managers position on weekends. I worked there from about late 1982 through early ‘85…It was assistant manager, I was basically responsible for opening up ,  making sure that the cash is balanced at the end of the day and locking it up in the floor safe which was always a pain.

Inspiring People: the projectionists Frank and Jimmy

“One was called Jimmy the other one was Frank, amazing how these names just popped into my mind. Jimmy was the younger of the two, they shared the work between them. They were actually quite affable, so we could if we wanted, we could go up to the projection box, which is fascinating (couldn’t touch anything) but the original manager was called Eddy Block and he was fascinating. He had come out of retirement, and he worked in West End cinemas’ all of his life. But he always used to say that these two projectionists were remarkable. In that projectionists at that point had a reputation of being absolutely a law unto themselves. No cinema manager would ever question what went on in the projection box. And nobody was ever allowed into the projection box. But these two guys were very friendly very affable. They were quite happy for us to go and poke around and watch what they were doing.”

Cinema interior

“The reception was bright pink, we had a kind of a ticket counter on the far left, and on the far right there was a counter that I actually helped build. It was made up of two old counters, I don’t know where we got them from but we used to do the memberships from there and the tickets from the other side. The inside of the place was painted bright gloss red which was very unfortunate ,really, , but that’s the way it stayed through out the time I was there. It was clean, tidy, as you can see from the photo”.

These pictures would have been around 1983 /1984.

Mike noticed that cinema had its own unique atmosphere created by everybody that worked there.
“Everybody who worked at Duke of York’s enjoyed film, or were committed to film in the arts. Mainstream cinema management is business. I found that they were far more interested in the bags of pop- corn they have sold than the films that they were showing. We were used to quite a bit of autonomy an input with Duke of York‘s. You have none of that with the main- stream cinemas. Everything was done centrally.”

Watching films

“I saw films that probably otherwise I would not be able to see particularly a lot of foreign films. And one of the down side is…from that day since I found it actually quite difficult to watch a film in one go, because I was so used to seeing a film in about three or four, half hour goes. Because of course if you were working there, you could probably say: I’m going to pop in for a half an hour, half an hour later you probably come out and take over the sale of the tickets. So over the course of  three or four days you would see a film but in half hour slots. I find hard even now while watching TV.”


“I never remember any trouble. I remember people going to sleep a lot. Friday and Saturday night going for a drink and then kind of staggering up to the Duke of York’s to catch up the last late night showing. Then wouldn’t really make it. And then we would go and wake them up.”

If you would like to listen to this interview please contact Christina Reading

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