In conversation: Anna Lambert 1998-2000

Interviewee: Anna Lambert

Anna Lambert Audio

Interviewer: Christina Reading

Date of Interview: 29th March 2010

Anna Lambert worked at theDuke of York’s as General Manager between 1998 and 2000. Here, she discusses her role in the cinema and the changes she encountered during these two years. Anna studied film at university and is very interested in independent cinema, particularly in film as a social construct. Indeed her position at the Duke of York’s enabled this interest to thrive, whilst having responsibilities over finances, resources and marketing.

On her work marketing the Duke of York’s

Anna recalls the combination of marketing cinema and film at the Duke of York’s.

“There’s an element of marketing that’s also involved working in an independent cinema, because that cinema needs to generate money and it needs to generate audiences, which a film might not be able to do on its own because it’s an independent film so it doesn’t have that marketing budget behind it.

I think you’ve got your clubbing films, you’ve got your student focussed films and often obviously the late shows so those tended to do well. ‘The Wicker Man’ always does well, always, every single time we showed it at Easter it always sold out. You think there can’t be anyone left who hasn’t seen it. Tarantino films always do really well there. But also I suppose earlier cinema as well, so kind of silent films and we used to have events where there’d be a piano so you’d kind of accompany.”

Anna discusses the balance between maintaining an ‘arthouse’ feel whilst surviving in the corporate arena.

“There can be a bit of tension when you’ve got other corporate cinemas who are already showing these films. And at the end of the day a decision is taken for financial reasons (which, I know, you have to still make money) but rather than for artistic reasons. …It became more commercial really and commercially driven.”

Indeed when later asked about changes to the cinema in her time there, Anna reiterates this issue.

“… perhaps it’s lost a little bit of its uniqueness and there’s a kind of drive for its financial success.”

More on Anna’s time at the Duke of York’s

Anna found there were few big problems at the cinema but remembers a different pace to her working life and putting changes into affect to discourage people trying to get into the cinema for free.

During the two years Anna worked at the cinema, she was part of several events including a night to celebrate the ‘mini’ and ‘The Italian Job’, as part of a British film season, and special screenings that the ‘rolling stock of young people’ in Brighton loved.

“We used to do all night kind of viewings as well, I think that was with paramount. We used to do those and we’d all stay up all night obviously to kind of watch, and people used to take it in turns to watch the films.

We organised a screening of grease, and we did karaoke so, and we were making, I remember Lawrence the bar manager, he was making cocktails and people would just take them into the screen.”

On changes in the cinema

“We had the refurb when I was there, so we had the red seats which were the armchair seats downstairs and then we had the blue seats which were just the flip up seats upstairs with the iron kind of handle things, armrests. And when I was there, that’s when it swapped over downstairs. I can’t remember if they replaced them or recovered them. Originally they were second hand anyway…they were always breaking…but the seats themselves were very comfortable.”

Anna also shares thoughts on people taking in food and drink today.

“You couldn’t take alcohol in when I was working there.  I don’t really have a problem with it because I think people try and sneak it in anyway so you make more money if you can, and generally the people who go bar a few disruptive incidents are generally well behaved…it’s not the kind of cinema where a lot of people come in and are really there to disrupt the film. Most people who go and watch the films want to see the film.”

During Anna’s time at the Duke of York’s, technology was becoming a bigger part of society and considers how this affected the cinema.

“I think we just started with the online booking at the point I left but a lot of it was telephone.”

This change in technology revolutionised how people were paid, and also awareness of events and films making it very different to the days Anna remembers where hours were spent hand delivering programmes or relentlessly enveloping and stamping them.

Final remarks on the cinema’s lasting impression

“It is such a unique cinema and does become, if you’ve ever worked there it becomes embedded under your skin, so to speak, and in your psyche. Even if you don’t work there, you still feel a part of it.

It seems like living being, not just a building, and I think that’s because of the people that work there.”

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