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The small cinema that keeps the big screen experience alive

Chris Jackson | 17:30 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Tyneside Cinema

The Tyneside Cinema is a remarkable gem. It is the last remaining news cinema in Britain which despite all the pressures and the need to modernise still has a "feel" about it.

I fear that young cinemagoers today simply cannot have the same love of the silver screen as previous generations.

Today's multiplexes are, let's face it, functional and utilitarian. Sure they can provide surround-sound explosive soundtracks to the latest action movie, the seats are more comfortable and are aligned and raked to ensure someone as tall as me doesn't block the view of someone behind.

What's missing is the thrill of the cinema itself. Just across from the Tyneside you'll find the tawdry crumbling exterior of what was once a jewel in the picture palaces of the region.

I remember the first time I went into the massive Odeon in Pilgrim Street. Up ornate gilded staircases, past sumptuous decorations before entering the circle. A massive auditorium opened up. You were literally swallowed up by the movie experience.

Even the music for the iconic Pearl & Dean adverts made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

That sense of wonder I felt in the 1970's must have been the same as that felt by the audiences who went to the flicks in the 30's when it opened as the Paramount. The picture of the interior I found online seems all too familiar but somehow distant too.

It succumbed to the fad of splitting up big cinemas into smaller screens and walls were ruthlessly thrown up with no regard for the original design. Suddenly you were no longer a "patron" of the cinema, you were just a number, thrown into a dark room to watch a film and then traipse back out into the world.

I rarely go to mainstream cinemas now. I'm convinced part of the falling out of love is because there is no 'wonder' left.

Hoorah to the Tyneside for clinging on. Even down by the box office you can pick up on the excitement of those who have just collected their tickets.

The fact there is still a curtain to raise before the projectionist sets to work is all part of the rose tinted dream I have for the silver screen experience.

After 75 years the Tyneside has had to undergo facelifts and has even added more screens, but not to the detriment of the feel of the place.

It even accidentally gave me one of the best film moments of my life. In 1991 I was sitting in the main auditorium lapping up the massive landscapes of My Own Private Idaho. In the distance the deep bass rumble of a looming storm was accompanied by a sound so resonant it shook my seat and the vibration coursed right through my body.

I was almost in shock that a scene could be so all-sensory until I realised the clap of thunder just happened to coincide with a Metro train that was passing probably no less that 30 feet below the cinema.

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