I’m leaning on the counter by the popcorn stand, not at The Palace to watch something on the big screen, rather the little screen of a phone. The clip shows how Picturedrome have transformed a previous cinema, and I’ve returned home to tell you, it’s impressive.
Some years ago, back writing the No Surprises Living in Devizes column for Index:Wiltshire, I used an episode to highlight the traditional side of Devizes, noting milk-floats and brewery drays, but focussing on the rarity of a town our size having a cinema, a lost-in-time cinema, reflecting a time of yore when attending a movie was an exciting treat akin to a theatre trip.
The response to the article was unexpected, my fuddy-duddy mind imagined everyone would agree and appreciate the Palace for its archaic character. Yet while the older of our population did, negative comments flowed, generally from younger ones. The seats were uncomfortable, there was a dank chill, the sound and screen outdated, and then there was always the chewing-gum covered seventies carpet.
I cannot blame anyone younger than I, who doesn’t get gooey-eyed over nostalgia, many admitted they’d rather travel and pay extra for a modern cinematic experience. Found this a hard pill to swallow at first, money is everything this day and age, multiplexes are over-priced, uninviting airport-styled zones for auditoriums, grey boxes for screens, absent of design, with extortionate merchandising thrust into your face on entry, and the overall sensation you’re being taken for a mug.
The more I contemplate it though, I’ve tendered a side to the notion; yeah, overlook my antiquated wistfulness, the Palace does need a lick of paint. Still, it’d be a horrific sight to behold if a makeover churned up a half-hearted attempt to replicate a city multiplex in our beautiful little town. At the breaking of the news that a new company was taking over the Palace, it’s only fair to worry it might go this way.
Step in Picturedrome, and after this brief encounter, I’m feeling extremely optimistic about the change. For starters, the young owners are keen and enthusiastic, they sing the praises of Picturedrome, a fair company it seems, who entrust the branches with the freedom to explore possibilities, and after all, have a wealth of experience in turning a cinema around.
Hum, did I say that, turning a cinema around is tricky, bit heavy?! Yet, all other Picturedrome’s branches are situated in similarly small towns, and were renovation projects. Newly appointed Devizes manager, Spencer, told of a success story in a Welsh town, where it’s elevated a community, bringing outlets such as Costa Coffee, with jobs and prosperity.
So, keen to hear what changes they planned, I fired only a few questions, I was content at what I’d already witnessed. There’s tins of paint and dust sheets in the bingo hall, the wall by the staircase is knocked through. “This only happened yesterday,” they laughed. The plan is in action and they’re hopeful it’ll be as early as March, but spring for sure. The first job is to update the main screen, whilst business continues.
Here’s the greatest thing though, combine my dilemma of traditional versus modernisation, seems Picturedrome will more than satisfy both sides of the argument. The new screen is to be moved forward, for effect, the sound will be equivalent of the large multiplexes, all the mod-cons will be installed, but in such a manner the building, and interior retains character.
Spencer, and Dorchester manager Karla, here to oversee the project, explained Picturedrome are keen to create a traditional cinema experience, to return it to that aforementioned time of yore, and they love curtains! The lighting and decor on the video of a probable scenario, creates an astatically pleasing experience, while the technology provides everything that you’d hope for in a modern cinema trip.
Keen too they were, to engage with the local community, and adhere to suggestions, in fact it was the first point they conveyed to me; intending to accommodate the long-standing Devizes Film Club, and even, when suggested, support local filmmakers. I mentioned my overlooked request to screen Swindon-made film, Follow the Crows, they gave an anecdote about a filmmaker who once manned the popcorn stand at the Palace, I was convinced they’d honour local projects.
Perhaps the development will make this easier, alas no bingo hall, but plentiful room left over for a fully-proposed second screen, perhaps, they added, a third. With this to their advantage, a greater variety will become available, and the chance to run film clubs and special events without interrupting major movie runs.
Does it sound all too good to be true? I know what you’re gonna ask. Shut it Jessie J, it is all about the price-tag, these days; another grand point to erm, point out. They intend to keep it affordable, cheaper than the big boys.
It’s ambitious, but the team are determined, and with such plans to impress either end of the tradition/modern debate, I’m certain the change is a positive move for Devizes, and a calling card to neighbouring towns and villages who’d previously drive to larger town’s multiplexes.
We await the opening, but until such time, the cinema continues to run, so support them and go see a film. I’ve updated the icon for the flicks on our homepage to send you to Picturedrome’s website, where you can book tickets online. Here’s the link anyhoo.
Adverts & That!