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Curzon Cinema - Final Curtain - 2003

I was on my way to work last week when I noticed with some surprise that the Curzon Cinema was being pulled down.

ML 1030

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YOUR RESPONSES

James Cunningham - Feb '08
I remember the Curzon from my days at Cunningham's. My late father owned this famous restaurant and I would be interested in talking to anyone that may of known my father, Captain Owen Cunningham?

John McBlain - Sep '06
Any old pictures of Ballyhackamore in the forties, fifties and sixties or would you know where I could get some. Many thanks

Jim McKeown - Aug '06
Hi Jo,
If you can forward an e-mail address onto this site, then I'll post some photos. There has been quite a response on this site regarding the Curzon and the cinema still comes to mind when I view a film. This year I converted my detached garage into a cinema and guess what I call it??

Be nice to get everyone together for a meal/drink and exchange memories etc. Everyone has moved on both in life and beyond. I like Victor's (ex - projectionist) thoughts of a large cinema in the sky for the departed folk who made the Curzon what it was.

Hope to hear from you soon!
Jim McKeown (ex-projectionist)

Jim McKeown - Sep '06
Hi Jo, send your e-mail address to YPAM and I'll forward some photos to u. There is video footage on 'James Gracey's' page through Google page.

Hi Jo, If you can forward your email to YPAM they will forward on to meMany people still like to ask what it was like working in the Curzon which as Dennis Wright said 'an institution on the Ormeau road'. The lovely memories always come back when I view a particular film I'd shown in the Curzon. It's funny, you can still imagine the smell of popcorn in the foyer and remember the large crowds waiting admission as they queued around Raby Street/St Judes. One highlight must be 'Titanic' on the big screen (No:1) upstairs. What a spectacle as the ship sailed across the large screen with the packed theatre. Then the staff who aren't around anymore who made the Curzon what it was. Namely Billy Wilson (Chief Projectionist), Babs Wilson (Chief Cashier) and many before who I didn't meet. When I first started in the Curzon at 15 (1985) it was so popular with the 3 screens. The thought of closure didn't enter our minds as there was no competition like nowadays. I always wonder if the investment was made, would the Curzon still stand. One idea I and others had was to build a sixth screen over the shops at front. Perhaps utilise the car park and bring in a food franchise but it wasn't to be.

Modern cinema doesn't offer the same film presentation as the Curzon and others provided. The screens are bigger but with the modern equipment I don't think it shows on the screen. Billy Wilson thrived for a great pic on screen and spent hrs fine tuning projection lamps and plates to ensure the best presentation.

Anyway, enjoy the memories and pass them on as I've done.

Best Wishes to all who worked in the Curzon and maybe bump into some of you in town sometime.

Cheers
Jim McKeown (ex-projectionist)

Noel Mc Mahon - Aug '06
Simply the best.
It was with regret that I learned of the demise of the Curzon cinema. I went with all my mates from the Short Strand throughout the 50s twice a week never missed. I have wonderful memories of all the fantastic films shown there. Although we also went to the Pop and Astoria none could beat the Curzon. There will never be another.

Jo McKeating - Aug '06
Hello all its jo again, sent a comment about a year ago. Jim still waiting to see those photos you promised :-) It was lovely to see the comments from Mr Wright, I have lost your address would love you to pass it on to Tony next time your in town. Thanks so much for the special mention, it meant a lot.
I still miss the curzon so much everytime I pass the site where it stood it brings a tear to my eye. But at least I have all those special memories that will stay with me forever X

Barry Compston - May '06
Hi Jim,
I was a projectionist until November 1986, I think you arrived after I had left. Great time working there, but the hours was the killer and finally I left. I beleive the Curzon could have survived..

Ed White - May '06
Sad to hear Curzon gone, I used to go there a lot lived in east belfast and went to Park Parade in mid 60s enjoyed Ormeau Park and surrounding areas a lot growing up moved to usa in 1983 but still drive through area when i visit

Victor Whiteley - April '06
To Roy
On the last night of operation, Sunday 11th April 1999, the main films shown at the Curzon were - Waking Ned & Shakespeare In Love. Shakespeare In love was the last to finish. The projectionists on duty were - David Fairfield, Billy Blaney and Victor Whiteley.

Roy - April '06
Does anyone know what was the last movie played at the curzon ?

Billy Blaney - April '06
Very pleasant to meet Mr. Wright and his wife in Forestside. We exchanged e-mail addresses but errors must have crept in because we didn't seem able to make contact.

I remember Ashley very well. She was very small when I took her upstairs one afternoon to see Uncle Billy. The stairs were long and steep for her but we had to laboriously count them one by one. I wonder if she remembers the exact number? Later, between shows, she climbed on the large stage of Curzon One and we had a devil of a job catching her.

Roy Fowler might be interested to know that the Curzon's original projectors were Kalee 11s. But running about eight hours a day we couldn't have managed with hand-fed arcs. We had Kalee Regal arcs and RCA soundheads and amplifier. The slide lantern had a manual arc lamp but this was used for only minutes at a time.
In 1954 Kalee 21s and President arc-lamps were installed, as well as a forty-foot Cinemascope screen.

Dennis Wright - March '06
Some months ago my wife and i were in Sainsburys and we met Billy Blaney. He told me about this site and I have enjoyed reading the letters from the many people who have happy memories of the Curzon. I was the last manager of the cinema. I spent the last 16 years of my working life there and was fortunate to meet many very nice people both as members of staff and patrons. To everyone who came to the cinema as patrons and those who worked there as staff I say THANK YOU.

To Noel, I am still a Spurs fan.

A very special to a special friend I called Jo.

Jim McKeown - Mar 06
Hi Ashley,

Yeah I remember you when u came into the Curzon with Babs, Terry, Billy and your mum. You were quite small in those days and a little shy! Hope all is well and yes a shame about the place we all loved and spent so many happy times within its walls. I do miss Billy and Babs and all the laughter. They were great times and I wish I could turn back the clock.

Cheers
Jim McKeown (former Curzon Projectionist)

Noel - Feb 06
God, I used to love the Curzon! Went there all the time. Remember having good craic with the manager whenever me and my mates went - think his name was Mr Wright. Was a Spurs fan I remember! Such a shame it had to go. Still nowehere else in the city that comes close to the biggest theatre in the Curzon.

Are there any other old-school cinemas in Belfast, like the Curzon?

 

Ashley Kerr (Julia McCoy's daughter) - Jan'06
Hi Jim,
You might remember me. Billy and babs wilson were my great uncle and auntie as well as terry and my granda, jerry mccoy. Quite exciting to see how well remembered they are especially how well respected uncle billy was in his field of work. I used to come to the cinema with babs, billy and terry all the time. Uncle billy used to take me up to the projection room and on to the roof top all the time. Miss them both so much and sad to see the closure of the curzon!

Pauline and Ann E. - Oct '05
I remember going to the curzon with my sisther all those years ago to watch grease . It ended up we watched it 14 times. Many a happy times at the curzon.

Roy Fowler - October '05
Hi Jim
I enjoyed reading about the Curzon. We have a Curzon in Loughborough near to where i live, an old classic cinema now working six screens, very popular nothing like those horrible multiplex jobs. Several years ago i worked at a local village cinema as a projectionist - Kalee 11s with hand feed arcs, changeovers and all that. Modern boys of today could not cope with that. Today at nearly 60, I have never lost the love of the cinema, taking photos of them before they get knocked down or burnt down, to even writing a book about them. At present I have a lot to do with the substandard gauge 8mm, 9.5 and 16mm, plus my Kalee 8 35mm made in 1921, that I show my NITRATE collection on quite safely!
Best Wishes for now Jim, speak again soon
Roy.

Victor Whiteley - May 05
A friend read Billy Blayney's response on this site and reminded me that Billy and I have a place in local cinema history. This is related to the showing of the first Star Wars film back in 1977. There were three projectionists on duty in the operating box that night. Billy and I are the two remaining projectionists who ran that first showing of Star Wars. Billy Wilson (The Chief), who sadly is no longer with us, made up the trio. Little did anyone imagine then that the first episode, and those that followed, would give birth to a worldwide cult following. Billy and I were also asked to return to the Curzon a few months prior to closure. Before anyone poses the question, yes we were there on the last night and we did show the last films, along with David Fairfield. I am sure there are many people out there who can remember being present at the last night of the Curzon, but how many are there who can recall being at that first night of Star Wars.

Billy Blaney - April '05
Very glad to have bumped into Jim McKeown and Tony Kennedy today and to have been informed about this site. It's good to know the Curzon was appreciated. I started work there in August 1953, my job description being "rewind boy". Billy Wilson had been chief operator for two years, the second was Jimmy McCullough, and Victor Wootton was third. I stayed for some twenty-three years, ending up as second operator. I have many fond memories of the fifties and sixties there. The advent of Cinemascope and Vistavision and other widescreen systems and the unofficial visits to the cinema of Darby O'Gill himself, David Whitfield, Diana Dors and the World Cup-winning England football team. (not all at the same time, of course!) Not to mention the Roy Rogers Riders Club and it's Ranch Foreman, Mr. Sidney Spiers, who strangely enough was manager of the Curzon as well!
Not so pleasant are memories of the darker days of the late sixties and early seventies when on more than one occasion the cinema had to be evacuated because of bomb hoaxes, and the worst day of all in September 1977 when a number of incendiary bombs exploded in the auditorium, destroying several hundred seats and causing the screen to melt. Fortunately it all happened during the night, so no-one was hurt. The city-centre ABC was totally destroyed that night, the Curzon being spared the same fate only because the fire service had the foresight to check all cinemas when the first fire was discovered. The Curzon had to close for some three months, but re-opened with an exclusive first run of the then record-breaking Star Wars.

Ivor Liley - March '05
Good to hear from you Bernard. Lots of water under the bridge. Glad to see you are well. Yeah I remember the Appollo too. Pretty dingey. Curzon still the best.

Bernard Richardson - January '05
Re, message 29th April 2004 [IVOR LILEY] below, it seems a life time ago Ivor, but we use to be in and out of each others house. I lived in front of you, 3 doors from the Maillys at 56. I remember your brother David and your Ma & Da. Like yourself I 'm married 29 years to Dorothy and 2 grand children. So many names spring back now, the Pattersons, oh and big Kenneth Kelly, hope you are well, the Roy Rogers club [ i remember it well] after the film was over we use to gallop up the aisle smacking my arse. Long live the Curzon. All the best Bernie.
P.S. any body remember the Apollo ? on the bridge ?
Thanks again

Bob, Hong Kong - November '04
I went to see many movies in 1996 when I was a foreign student living on the Ravenhill road. The last time I passed by was in 1998 when me and my mother dined across the street at Somewhere Different.

My memories of the Curzon was cozy and tiny. Not like other cinemas I go to in Asia or in England. After the movie, people started to flock to the darkness of the street, this was unforgetable.

Brian Robinson - Nov. '04:
Do we remember the clouds of tobacco smoke???
My mother once set fire to the feather in her hat!

Derek Shaw, Kingston Canada - August 2004
So sad to see another memory gone, used to walk there from Cregagh in the 50s to watch the Sat movies. Most of the time we went to the Ambassador (Ambo), sometimes the Willowfield (Winkie flea pit). Love to see more photos. Thanks

Jim McKeown, Curzon Ex Projectionist. - August 2004
No Peter I don't think so.

Peter Boyle - August 2004
Jim McKeown, did you have any relatives that lived on Lepper Street off the New Lodge Road?

Bob Morgan, Millford Conn, USA
- June 2004
When I was growing up in the Short Strand area of Belfast my friends and I would love to go to the Curzon. It was a great picture house, so clean and nice people went there. When we got off the bus on the Ravenhill Road and walked through one of the streets that went alongside the picture house the homes were so beautiful, especially in the spring. There were apple trees in the gardens in the autumn so we would pick some apples to eat in the pictures. I have great memories of Belfast growing up in 1940s and 1950s. I came to America in 1958 and have been here since. I am sad that the Curzon will be gone.

Kate, ex Belfast now living in Durham - May '04
I had my first kiss in the Curzon - can't remember what film it was, but definitely remember that night!

Jim McKeown(ex-Curzon projectionist) - 5 May 2004
Hi Jo,
It's been a long time now, but I would love to get a reunion of the surviving members of staff. I miss the Curzon too and all those summers of fun etc. I met Dennis Wright at Tesco a couple of weeks ago and he seemed to be keeping well. I see the Gaston's at the Glentoran matches now and again and I met Clare McCartney down in Dublin when Tony Kennedy and I were down to see Paul McCartney at the RDS. I see Pat (Terry/Babs brother) now and again too. I also keep in contact with Big Tony. All I have like a lot of people is memories and photos (some of which will appear, along with dvd footage, on this site soon!) The closing night footage is all on dvd and safe along with many photos. I have photos with most of those girls U mention in the Curzon just before I left and U are in some of them!! So hopefully some photos/film footage will be added soon to this site and maybe a reunion of all the staff! Keep the messages/memories of the Curzon coming.
Cheers.

Claire - 5 May 2004
I used to go to the Curzon cinema when I was a kid and then graduated to going with the squeeze of the moment. It was very handy to where I lived, even if it did smell a bit musty sometimes.

Mark Charles - 5 May 2004
Ach it is a sad day. I was also one of those who saw my first big screen movie in The Curzon. 1982, E.T, I must only have been 4 or 5 years of age. Then in my teens I would hop on the bus and make the journey to the Curzon with carry-out in hand. Then just a few years ago I was working on the road for BCDA when the news came through that the Curzon would be closing its doors - shocking indeed! For years it sat there and now it is down and it's a crying shame. The wee women who sold you your ticket and your popcorn - both notorious for taking no crap from youngsters and the head usher faithfully dressed in his tux each week.

The closure of the bakery is also a sad one. What's going to keep the drivers on the road going with that wonderful aroma of fresh baking bread not there anymore?

What's going to be next in Ballynafeigh?

Thank God for great memories that can never be knocked down!!

Jeffrey - 5 May 2004
I was conceived in the Curzon. I think the film was Dangerous Moonlight.

Kirsty - 5 May 2004
I remember going to the Curzon with my mum, dad and brother to see Dick Tracey in 1990 when I was about 6. We went to the corner shop opposite for toffee bonbons before going in. Every time I pass the site where it once was, I always remember being there that night.

Josephine McKeating - 4 May 2004
Jim hi,
Glad to see a website about the old Curzon. I worked there as a usherette for over 8 years and loved every minute of it. Can't believe it's no longer there. I remember selling the icecream, walking about the isles with my torch making sure that everyone stayed quiet, what laughs we had. I'm sure everyone remembers Mr Dennis Wright the Manager and how he always greeted everyone coming into the cinema. We should organise a party to remember those days. Any other usherettes out there, especially those who worked there in the late eighties and nineties, to get in contact, Lucille Jones, Anita Hamilton, Sinead Black, Clare Brennan to name just a few. I miss the old place so much, can't wait to see what pictures are going to be added to the web.
JO

(We hope pictures will be added very soon - Editor)

Stephen R(Ex East Belfast, now in Manchester) - 1 May 2004
A truly sad day. Many an evening was spent in that cinema, getting the popcorn from the old woman who seemed to have been there since I was wee (I'm now 28), smuggling the occasional carry-out.... GOD BLESS THE CURZON & ALL THOSE WHO WATCHED FILMS IN HER.

Ivor Liley - 29 April 2004
As an ex Roy Rogers club member from Breda Road I too have many happy memories of the late 50s and 60s. As an early riser I would be ready every Saturday morning at the crack of dawn to make the pilgrimage to the Curzon. I met my first girlfriend there, Hilda Smith from the bottom of the Ravenhill Road. When I was about 17 I purchased a crimson nero style frock coat from a friend Jackie Kinghan. I proudly tried to enter the Curzon in the height of mod 60s fashion, only to be approached by my nemesis for years UNCLE SYDNEY. He decided I looked like a trouble maker and would only let me in if I removed my pride and joy. After a few words I did so. Imagine my humiliation to find I had worn the world's oldest shabiest work shirt, which had the arms hacked off and was two sizes too small. Belfast being a small town at the time word got back to my home about the embarrassing incident. Boy was I in trouble. This is only one of thousands of memories I have of the Curzon and the 23 years my wife Edna Liley (nee cunningham) lived in a great city.

Darren - 28 April 2004
I lived in Raby St just beside the Curzon and I remember going to see my first movie in 1982 when I was just 5 years old. It was the blockbuster E.T. I sat with my uncle on the red seats at the back of No.1 screen. The Curzon became a part of my life. As I grew up I frequented it more and more regulary. I can still remember the crowds of people walking past our house at the weekend on their way to the Curzon. It was a huge attraction in the eighties, the cars packed the surrounding streets without fail every weekend. I remember when there was a bomb scare at the back of the police station and the streets had to be evacuated. The owners of the Curzon allowed the local residents to come into the cinema and even showed us all movies while the army did their thing. Great childhood memories. I will never forget the Curzon cinema.

Richard Stoops - 24 April '04
As a fully paid up member of The Roy Rogers Club in the 1950's, I have many happy memories of going to the Curzon on Saturday mornings and watching all manner of cartoons and serials which ended on a cliffhanger, thus ensuring my return the following week. The Roy Rogers club at the Curzon was not a club as such but the opening short film on Saturday morning was usually a Roy Rogers film and the introduction was really Roy welcoming the children to the cinema as members of his "club". It was very popular and I am sure there are many of your readers who will also remember it. There were, of course, other short films-cartoons for example. Sad that the cinema has been demolished like so many others. No doubt impossible to compete with modern multi screen cinemas.

Jim McKeown. Ex Curzon Projectionist - 23 April '04
I worked with Billy Wilson who became the Chief Projectionist at the Curzon, Trevor. He always spoke highly of your father (Tommy Davidson I remember him saying was his name). Billy has now passed away (Feb 2000) after a long spell of illness. It was Billy who taught me film projection and the importance of presentation. Unlike to-day's multi-plex cinemas where presentation doesn't really exist, the importance of film presentation was instilled in me from when I was 15yrs old. Billy loved the Curzon, as we all did, and took great pride in his work. He and his wife (Babs) are missed along with the Curzon building. We used to sit in that projection room you describe and have tea and biscuits talking about old times. Mr Harry Shepherd, Mr Sidney Spiers and your father came up in the conversation now and again. I have great pictures of that dimmer you said you used to change the colours on the curtains in them days. Anyway, hopefully we will perhaps add some images to this web-site soon!

Trevor Davidson (North Carolina) - 13 April '04
My father was the chief projectionist when the Curzon first opened around 1938. We lived in Rushfield Ave, then in '39 moved to Knockbreda Drive. Billy Wilson was his assistant plus one other young chap. The manager was a Mr Shepard. I went to school opposite the Curzon at St Judes and was the envy of all the kids in my class. Twice a week I took my dad's lunch to him in the operating box. Sometimes I got to change the colours on the curtains during the intermission. I would watch the movie through the window. Often my dad would slip me down into the balcony. Happy memories. It was sad to see it being torn down and now I read on the Belfast web site that the Ormeau Bakery is closing this week. Sooo sad.

Has anyone else memories of going to the Curzon? What films did you see? Who did you go with? Perhaps you worked there at one time. Share your stories of the Curzon here on the Your Place & Mine website. We'd also be keen to hear your memories of the Ormeau Bakery. To send us your comments or stories just fill in the form at the bottom of the page. (Editor)

Jim McKeown, ex Curzon projectionist - March '04
I HAVE PLENTY OF PHOTO'S AND DVD FOOTAGE OF THE CURZON CINEMA BOTH IN OPERATION AND FINAL EVENING'S PERFORMANCE. HOPEFULLY BE ADDED TO THE WEB-SITE SOON.
JIM McKEOWN

 

Andy Dixon - March 04:
I am to sorry to see the demise of your cinema. Irecently saw a similar sight of my local cinema. If you find any old pictures of how it looked, I would love to see them. All the Best.
Andy Dixon, England

 

Jim McKeown, ex Curzon projectionist - February '04
I was one of the projectionist's in the Curzon for 9 years approx, and have a lot of great memories in there! I started as a trainee projectionist when I was 15 and spent most of my early adult life behind the scenes. Highlight's for me were the popularity of 'Crocodile Dundee' which played for 26 week's I think.
The premiere of 'The Commitments' was another great night and the excitement generally for us when a big blockbuster came along. The queue's around Raby street / St Judes were great to see. Alas with the arrival of the larger multi-plex with car parking and restaurant's etc, the Curzon was doomed. I agree with one of the director's when he stated that the Curzon was for the 20th century not the 21st . However, at the time of closing we felt with a little investment it could've survived but it needed facilities added and a lot of refurbishment inside and out .

Someone remarked to me that it would be cheaper to knock it down and start again. I like a lot of people loved the main cinema upstairs (cine 1,formerly the circle/balcony). The coved lighting and large screen and stereo surround sound. The nights spent watching Jurassic Park, Dances with Wolves and Pretty Woman and finally the most popular film in the cinema's last days, the wonderful Titanic. Every time I see that film I think of the night my wife and I spent viewing the spectacle of the great ship sailing across the screen. At least on the last night when it closed we got a lot of footage of people coming/leaving the Curzon. The projector's starting up for the last time with the 20th century fanfare music. Nice to look at on dvd now and again. Pity someone couldn't`t put something in it's place in new development to remind future people of the landmark which once stood there. The place where people met ,viewed film and had a good laugh! It will always be a part of me as I shared some great times in there and met one of my best friend's there. Ahh well, I hope someone reading the above finds it interesting and leaves a reply.

Jim, great memories indeed. If you`d like to share the footage of the last days of the Curzon please get in touch again and we can add some of those images to the site. Ed.

hilldill
A very sad sight indeed. The Curzon was my local cinema in the 70's. I have some good memories of trying to get in to the X-rated films a couple of years too early. Despite (too much) make-up we were usually spotted and thrown out of the queue! I remember seeing "Earthquake" there with quadrophonic sound - I really felt the ground shake under our feet! I have laughed, cried, been scared half to death in the Curzon, I even fell in love a few times there... What a loss....

mag
I read this and thought of all the other old picture houses we went to as kids then as teenagers. When I was wee my grannie took me to the Pop and the new'an. As a kid I took all the kids in the street to the Castle to the Saturday matinee. As a teenager it was the Winkie and the Drum. Only when I got older did I go to the Strand and the Astoria. But I think they're all just about gone now. All those wee boys we met on a Friday or Saturday night in the sixties. Great memories.

Stanley Sloan xEast Belfast
Another sad day for us xiles. Manys a great film I saw there but I guess it had to happen. I think the last one left I used to frequent is the Strand in Ballyhackamore. I'll keep watching to see what takes its place.

James Cunningham - Feb '08
I remember the Curzon from my days at Cunningham's. My late father owned this famous restaurant and I would be interested in talking to anyone that may of known my father, Captain Owen Cunningham?


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