Lights Out At The Curzon Cinema, Eastbourne
By Anna Arnone
Late last year news broke locally that Eastbourne’s independent Curzon Cinema was to close. Poignantly, it’s now gone dark just short of what would’ve been its centenary.
Roy Galloway, the Curzon’s current owner, acquired the freehold as a going concern in 1987 from its previous proprietor, Eric Rhodes. Galloway had previously worked as a film editor. He explained, “I was in the industry, producing documentaries and trailers and adverts with a company in London. When I left there I decided it would be nice to continue with something like this. And then I heard that this was going on the market. So I went to see Eric Rhodes, to talk to him, to buy it, and he was impressed, I think, by the fact that I wanted to keep it going as a cinema and not trying to make it into something else.”
Roy Galloway and cinema manager Salam Niwa
PICTURE: Anna Arnone
Now in his eighties, Eastbourne born and bred, Galloway, says, “I’ve always loved the Curzon. When it was the Picturedrome I was here, with my mother, very often as a child. Films like Snow White and all that and one has always enjoyed its atmosphere. It’s very easy going.”
Galloway’s manner is modest, even when mentioning his connection to Ken Loach, a favourite director of his, “…actually I have met him. When I was a film editor, he wanted to borrow a cutting room at one stage, and came to me to see if mine would be available. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I had not a very busy time at that moment. So I said you can use it for two or three months, and he did. I got to know him a bit there, and he’s a very nice man.”
The Curzon has, over the years, undergone significant changes, Rhodes having converted it to its current layout of two small screens downstairs and the large screen upstairs. Galloway is proud the Curzon is home to the Eastbourne Film Society, which shows one-day specials, often French, less commercial films. But he’s not overly keen on the ‘Arthouse’ label which he feels can be misleading or snobby, saying, “I think Arthouse cinema is excellent provided it’s interesting, and then it’s entertainment…I like a good film with a good basic story or a theme, which is saying something to a new audience, which is worth saying…that’s the main thing, because if it’s interesting, it’s entertainment.”
The Curzon is quirky but showing distinct signs of wear. The opening of the new eight screen multiplex Cineworld in the Beacon has been putting up the pressure, despite the Curzon’s much lower ticket prices. Galloway laughs,“It’s still a bargain price even though in my days it was one and ninepence”. And he points out they had “…still got our loyal people who come and enjoy the atmosphere of the Curzon.”
Running a cinema is an expensive business. But Galloway says, “It’s always been very funny really because people say, ‘oh dear, how much does it cost to hire a film.?’ And I always say, ‘well actually nothing because the distributor wants the booking.” This is because costs are based on ticket sales.
Will this definitely be the final curtain? Galloway says, “Not necessarily. It depends who buys it. If they want to buy it and continue it, fine, it would go on.” Although he knows sentimentality about selling the cinema is pointless, he is emotional about the Curzon, “The way one’s persevered with it and one just has to hope it will carry on”. But anyone taking it on as a cinema would, he says, “ have to have the wisdom and energy to remember that some days you’ll be empty. And some days you’ll be full.”
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