Thursday 29 March 2012

Movie Memories

Reminiscing about experiences in the past can be both enjoyable pastimes and serve as informative examples of oral history and culture. In August, 2011, the Writer's Circle members looked back at early memories shared here in the Cayman Islands. Here are a couple of those special recollections:

1960’s "Movie nights at Galleon Beach Hotel"
Grand Cayman

One, if the earliest hotel in Cayman was built by Mr. Benson Greenall from UK.
The Galleon Beach was a very popular “hangout” for locals and in season, home to many
wealthy visitors from overseas.

Guests were required to wear formal evening dress in the dining room at night,
long gowns for the ladies, dinner jackets and ties for the men.

Friday nights were movie nights, open to the public. The large beachside screened patio was cleared of tables, chairs were set out for the “patrons.” A free show, no charge! 8 p.m. was movie time! Guests wondered in early - some bearing glasses of wine, etc, a very informal get-together. The gentleman who presented the weekly film show, was Mr. Thomas Seymour. He owned an open-air cinema in Sheddon Road, in George Town. Always on time, Thomas arrived with the projector and reels of film. The crowd sat,
waiting, wondering, what film we would see.

We waited, and finally the movie started, all went well, the first reel ended, but there were
times when Thomas was obviously having a nap, and would be shouts - “Thomas wake up,
change the reel.” On other occasions the reels were not in sequence, so again, more shouts.
This was entertainment during those laidback, peaceful, and charming days of Grand Cayman.

Changes are inevitable, and since the Galleon Beach Hotel has been replaced by massive condominium Buildings on Seven mile Beach, a lot of the charm of old Cayman is no longer evident but I often remember those times, grateful that I was part of it all.

By: Brenda Quin


By: C.G. Wilson

I have always loved going “to the pictures” as we used to call it in England when I was a boy. Unfortunately, that was a very long time ago. My enjoyment of the cinema, or the “movies” as the USA terminology has it, has not waned over the years. I have a superb and very expensive Home Theatre Surround System boasting eight speakers (four full size stand mounts) with two amplifiers that can crash out 140 watts in all seven channels. I can have guns exploding bullets all around my room. Horses pulling chariots with horrifying noise crashing through my sitting room. Music bouncing off all the walls. I am there living it all. The ‘it’, however, cannot compete with the actual cinema experience. Here is something even more exciting, for me, to park my car outside the cinema or movie theatre building (USA terminology again!), line up, get my ticket, smell the hot dogs and pop corn at the concession stands, listen to the chatter of the other patrons, walk into the theatre proper, find a good seat and wait for the fun to begin.

Here in Grand Cayman it has been even more enjoyable, especially my earlier days. I am going back to the 1980’s. Grand Cayman, then, boasted a cinema in George Town on North Church Street run by Mr. Berkley Bush. It was where the Bush Centre is now opposite Rackham’s. Another was the Drive In Cinema at the east side of Bodden Town. I never had the opportunity (or nerve) to visit either of those establishments, something I have long regretted. My first movie experience was the cinema complex on Seven Mile Beach, West Bay Road, where The Marquee Plaza is. Sadly, all three venues have closed.

The very first film I saw was “The Mountain Men”. It starred Charlton Heston and Brian Keith and it was only notable as the film script was written by Charlton Heston’s son, Fraser Clark. He actually made a screen appearance in “The Ten Commandments” as Moses. Yes, it is true and you thought it was Charlton, didn’t you? You are right and so am I. Fraser was the baby Moses! There is nothing really memorable about the movie (plot – a pair of grizzled frontiersmen fight Indians, guzzle liquor, and steal squaws) except it was my first Cayman movie experience. The cinema complex was two movie theatres side by side sharing the same foyer, ticket concession counter with the ‘interesting’ large external sign “CINEMAS 1 & 2” in letters on the side of the building. You reached the entrance from the West Bay Roadas there was a very large vacant lot that extended down from the building to the road. You parked your car on the lot which was just a dust bowl. There was a concrete path only adjacent to the building. A sign, mounted on a 3 ft concrete plinth near the road, announced what was showing at both theatres. This was replaced by a similar sign. This was a shame, as it was very funny to read the strange names of films that were apparently being shown. It reached a head once when by chance, the letters of the actual film were changed to “Debbie Does Dallas”. I wonder how many disappointed movie goers were there.

Cinema 1 was older than Cinema 2. It was bigger and the seats were more comfortable. It even had a stage. The Cayman Drama Society once performed on it. The floors sloped down but not enough to impair your vision by some large body in front of you. No one had thought to move the seating slightly so as not to be directly behind the one in front. I used to hear the annoyance of the person behind me when I sat in the row in front.

Before the movie started country music would play. I thought this was very strange at first as I was expecting to hear reggae or calypso. I did not know, then, how popular country music is in Cayman, especially on the Brac.

A visit to the local cinema was a day out. An event, resulting in lots of chatter from the patrons. Waving and shouting greetings to people from all over the cinema, even getting out of seats to hold long conversations until the movie began. In my days in England, it was relatively quiet and the first notice the film was about to start was the gradual lowering of the lights. This could take up to a minute so the patrons eyes would get used to the darkness. Not here. It was an instant lights out.

When the movie started was often moments fraught with audience exasperation, whistles, cat calls and laughter. At least 25% of my visits, and I used to do two movies a week – we had no television in those days – the film started blurred, sound so low you could hardly hear, or no sound at all and on two occasions the wrong projector lens was used so the images elongated. Changeover onto another projector often resulted in the film we were watching finishing in mid frame with a bright light filling the screen and the noise of the end of the film reel flapping against the spool wheel. The audience reaction was deafening. Upon watching the movie “Fo a Few Dollars More”, Clint Eastwood disappeared into flames – the film had actually ignited when it somehow touched the projector lamp. During “Arabian Adventure” somehow there was a spool missing – the end one so I never did see how it finished. We did get our money back but the movie never did finish its run so where did that missing spool go? At the time of writing this they are gutting the cinema and perhaps they might locate it.

They were fun times and now they are gone. We have a new cinema complex at Camana Bay. Comparable to the best movie houses in Europe and the USA. Superb sound and very comfortable stadium seating with arm rests and holders to place your drinks. Hmm. Stadium seating. Drink holders. My wife (Joan) and I had our first visit there soon after it opened. We were used to placing our drinks onto the floor. Armed with the drinks we sat down and I noticed the receptacles. I placed my drink into the one on my armrest and tried to do the same with hers. Joan grabbed it from me and placed it onto the floor in front of her, except there was no floor. It was an empty space hovering over the row in front almost one foot below. The drink cup disappeared from view with a loud thud. We heard the top come off of the edges and the noise of ice exploding onto the floor. Finally the sound of liquid running like little waterfalls off the edge of the rows came to our ears. After the shock we both fell all over our seats with laughter and I have no idea what the movie was. We never returned to the cinema there until we had to – when our beloved Cinema 1 and 2 closed their doors.

They were fun times.

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