Parkway Cinema is star of show on 15th birthday
Formerly part of The Gaumont and then Odeon chains, it is one of Yorkshire’s last surviving independents and is celebrating its 15th birthday.
Despite the growth of huge multiplex theatres with IMAX screens, motion sensory seats and more, film fans continue to flock to the twin screen Parkway in Eldon Street, Barnsley.
For full details of this week’s anniversary screenings and upcoming events visit barnsley.parkwaycinemas.co.uk.
The front of the building was decorated with bunting and it hosted a backstage tour at the weekend to see what life is really like behind the windows on the upper floors, the projection rooms, hidden passageways and staircases, under the stage and behind the screen.
It also charged old ticket prices of just £1 to watch a film projected screening of 1997’s The Full Monty, vintage ads and trailers.
A 2-4-1 discount was given to anyone turning up with a birthday card to watch new releases Minions: The Rise of Gru, DC League of Super Pets and Elvis.
Alongside traditional film projection equipment it also boasts state-of-the-art screening equipment and during an anniversary party weekend it showcased its full potential with a Westlife concert streamed live from Wembley Stadium, via satellite.
There has been a cinema on Eldon Street for more than 100 years and bosses want fans to share their stories on social media by using the hashtag #EldonStreetStories.
A new multi-screen Cineworld is set to open in Barnsley town centre later this year.
But Parkway continues to be forward thinking and it has scheduled an exciting mix of new releases, retro screenings, live stream concerts and live stage shows, Highlights include a 35mm film screening of Pretty Woman and Lawrence of Arabia in 70mm.
Mercury Queen Tribute will be live on stage in September.
It recently hosted a special event to mark the unveiling of a Kes statue in memory of local book writer Barry Hines – director Ken Loach and actor Dai Bradley made speeches on the cinema stage before a brass band marched special guests and dignitaries from the venue to the sculpture unveiling in Chapside.
Parkway Entertainment Company, family owners who also have cinemas in Cleethorpes and Louth Beverley, are planning to expand further with a new space in Grimsby.
Sheffield’s Showroom cinema, café bar and creative workspace, is also testimony to how independents continue to thrive – it shows new releases and art films, hosts cultural events, festivals and even organisers a programme with the BFI Film Academy.
Rob Younger, who waas a projectionist when it was The Odeon, stepped in with Gerald Parkes two years after it closed and opened the Parkway Cinema with screenings of Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix and Shrek The Third, on Wednesday, August 8, 2007. They continue to run a small team, screening films this week including Top Gun: Maverick.
Previously it was part of The Gaumont chain, built on the site of the former Empire Palace of Varieties Theatre, which first opened there on June 8, 1908.
"We take huge pride in preserving the art of the projectionist, showing 35mm and 70mm film, and hosting special showings and live stage shows that people travel from across the country to see,” said Rob.
"On behalf of my team and myself, I would like to thank all of our lovely customers for your support over the past 15 years and especially this weekend. The outpouring of good feeling and all the cards that we have received is truly heartwarming.
"As Barnsley’s only independent cinema, we are proud to bring joy to our communities and to provide adventures away from the everyday. We are also proud to continue a century-long tradition of film and cinema here on Eldon Street.
"There has been a cinema on this site for over 100 years. The Empire Palace of Varieties Theatre specialised in music hall variety shows and had some amazing and unusual acts, including a school of performing sea lions in 1911.
"The theatre was converted into the Empire Super Cinema, opening on March 22, 1920. Sound was installed in 1929 and the first ‘talkie’ was shown in November of that year.
"It was renamed the Gaumont in 1950. Sadly, a huge fire destroyed the building in January 1954. However, a new cinema was built from the ashes and the new Gaumont reopened in this building in 1956.
"The cinema was renamed Odeon in 1962, when the former Odeon in The Alhambra Theatre, where the Alhambra shopping centre is now, was closed. It was converted to a twin screen cinema in 1980 and ran for 25 years.”