Interviewee: Catherine Page
Interviewer: Christina Reading
Date of Interview: 9th March 2010
Catherine Page’s research on the Duke of York’s is based on the experiences and lives that are interwoven with the building. She focuses on the period of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. She has a personal interest having frequented the cinema for the last ten years as a resident of Brighton, as well as an academic interest as her MA dissertation is the basis for her investigations.
On why the Duke of York’s survived throughout the 1970s and 1980s
Catherine’s research focuses on the special circumstances that allowed the cinema to endure when other independent cinemas were closing. She believes the people played an important role in the Duke of York’s success. She talks of the warmth and good feeling in the cinema and how much the people at the cinema cared for it during the 1970s. Furthermore, her research highlights several other factors involved.
“I think it’s a mixture of things. Partly it was luck. There was a cinema that was sold in 1976 and the company that bought it which were called Victory publically stated that they wanted to turn it into a bingo parlour but they couldn’t do that because the council had just granted a bingo licence to a cinema that was very near. And therefore they refused the bingo license at the Duke of York’s. Although Peter Drew Bear had had bingo there in the preceding years it wasn’t totally bingo there. …There is a lovely rumour by the way, that I’ve found is complete rubbish, is that there was wrestling around in the ‘60s but in fact there wasn’t. …In the ‘70s there were various elements. The British Institute had an outlet here in North Street where they played arthouse movies…and they decided by the end of the ‘70s that it wasn’t worth continuing here. But they did pass the arthouse mantel to the Duke of York’s and by that time the Duke of York’s was already playing slightly, well foreign, and slightly different films, partly I suppose they couldn’t get the main films. They didn’t have enough money and weren’t on the right circuit. So that was an opportunity.”
She also talks of the changes that went on at the cinema in terms of its audiences. During the ‘70s the audiences were made up of students and locals, though with a different feel to the ‘60s. Catherine discusses how the cinema went from a family hub to a place for students and renters in the area. Later she highlights the importance of the vulnerable years of 1976-1983 in witnessing a great deal of change at the Duke of York’s, and the gap in available information on this time.
On recent changes and the future of the cinema
When asked if she has any concerns about the feel of the cinema being lost through the increasing corporate feel, Catherine asserts her unease that the cinema is trying too much to be like other cinemas.
“There are tonnes of films made all over and they could have more, and there’d be an audience. It’s trying to appeal to everyone at the moment and I think it’s spreading itself a bit thin.”
Her concerns lie in her role as a customer and not as an academic. She recalls her disappointment when her plans to see Mamma Mia failed when the film sold out rapidly on a Friday night. She emphasises that not being able to see the film at the Duke of York’s itself was what made her disappointed. There seems to be a certain special feel to the cinema. Catherine discusses how it incites a sense of solidarity and friendship.
On the Duke of York’s ghost
“The ghost lives in the cinema. One of the people who works there said that if you’re clearing up late at night when everybody’s gone and you have your back the screen, you get a feeling that you’re being watched.”
Catherine has come across many interesting stories and rumours in her research, reiterating the significance of the cinema’s people and the importance of hearing people’s memories of this wonderful place.