This is a documentary film of an event curated by Constantine Gras as part of the Portobello Film Festival, 2019. It celebrated the history of the Gate Cinema, Notting Hill, London from 1911 to the present day. A narrator told the story of emotional creativity in the world of boom and bust capitalism. A monster mash-up of films included silent shorts, extracts from the films of British film star, Robert Donat, and art house cinema of the 1970s.
The Electric Palace - Silent Years (1911 - 1931)
0:00:00 Introduction by the narrator:
"The cinema experience as we know it started with the opening of picture houses between 1907 and the first World War. This period saw an unprecedented investment when businessmen shed their cautious approach to risk in search of massive financial rewards."
0:01:33 Introduction by Horace Sedger, American business man who opened the Electric Palace picture house in 1911:
"There are many nay-sayers, who put us down! Who think films corrupt young and impressionable minds. They say there is no future in this newfangled technology. Humbug we say! The cinema is a mere infant."
0:04:34 Extracts from silent films available to view on BFI player
The Production of a Map (1917), Delhi Durbar (1911), Demonstration of Suffragettes (1910)
Tilly and the Fire Engines (1911)
0:06:35 A poem written by a projectionist from the silent cinema.
"I'm here in a fireproof box that is hot as a stokehole floor,
And my head goes round to a clicking sound and a rickety motor's roar
And my nose smells films and my tongue tastes films
And my eyes they can see film too
Till I'm sick unto death at the thought of films."
The Embassy - The Coming of Sound (1931 - 1963)
0:08:50 Mary and Jorge visit the cinema to see a Robert Donat film.
0:10:30 Dr Victoria Lowe, University of Manchester, on Robert Donat’s "Art of acting in the age of mechanical reproduction."
0:14:14 Film extracts from Goodbye Mr Chips (1939), The 39 Steps (1935) and Knight Without Armour (1937)
0:16:07 A letter to Robert Donat from a fan: “Will meet you at midnight on Sunday outside Boots.”
The Classic - A full blown repertory (1963-1974)
0:17:29 Adam Ritchie introduces the film he made in New York in 1966 with Yvette Nachimas called Room 1301: “The dangerous film stock was then destroyed, so there is no way back.” Followed by screening of film (15 minutes long). A film about a worker lost in the maze of a high rise office block.
The Gate as Art House (1974 - 1985)
0:37:08 Nigel Andrews, Financial Times film critic, shares his memories of the pioneering Gate cinema in the 1970s and the American couple, Barbara and David Stone, who screened and distributed independent movies from around the world.
0:43:44 Trailer for Barbara Stone - Unpublished (Film in production)
Explores the life of a mother, filmmaker, teacher, distributor and exhibitor
Written and directed by Veronica and Jordan Stone
0:49:32 Extracts from Fear Eats The Soul (1974) and Sebastiane (1976)
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Derek Jarman
To The Gate Picturehouse And Beyond
Anthony Smith, Director of the BFI, 1986
“I wish to protest in the strongest possible terms against the proposal to transform the Gate Cinema into a take-away hamburger restaurant.”
0:51:38 Jonathan Barnett, Director of the Portobello Film Festival, introduces his film R.D. Laing On Iona: “They were all tripping on magic mushrooms and had a go at R. D. Laing because he cancelled a seminar. And then he gave them a talk about anger and had them eating out of his hand.”
Followed by screening of film (10 mins)
1:02:50 The narrator:
"We have glimpsed how the history of this cinema has been shaped by pioneering figures with one eye on entertainment or art and the other on box-office takings. Managing a sustainable business in a constantly changing world. We have experienced the power of film stars and their impact on the audience. We have celebrated the history of film made on fragile celluloid stock."
1:06:05 Constantine Gras on how he curated this programme and on the concluding film, Strawberries Are For The Future, which is about the garden (and gardener, Stewart Wallace), in the shadow of Grenfell Tower - a year after the tragic fire claimed the lives of 72 people.
Short extract from the film.
Lee Ellwood, current manager of the Gate Picturehouse
Dylan Stone, artist
Adam Ritchie, photographer and film maker
Jonathan Barnett, Director of the Portobello Film Festival
They talk about how the Gate Picturehouse chain and potential for screening independent shorts, the Barbara Stone Archive that has just been deposited at Kings College London and the vibrancy of community activism and counter-culture in North Kensington.
Many thanks to Jonathan Barnett and Lee Ellwood for facilitating this event.
Narrated by Jackie Kearns with performances by Richard Seedhouse, Claire Finn and Harvey Steven.
Costumes by Adriana Solari.
Filming and sound recording by Harry Green.
Photo above, from left to right:
Horace Sedger, director of Electric Palaces Ltd that opened the cinema at 87 Notting Hill Gate, in 1911.
Barbara Stone, manager of Cinegate and Gate Cinema that opened in 1974.
Stewart Wallace, gardener at Lancaster West estate who stars in The Strawberries Are For The Future (2019).