Getting off on the wrong foot as my cinematic world turns upside down

The first day at a new job, or even, when I was a lot younger, a new school, never bothered me. Even interviews were not a problem because I always took the attitude that if I didn’t get this job then there’d be another one coming along soon.

Mind you my first day as an assistant career manager at the Romford Odeon might just as easily have been my last when I looked in on a screening of Little Big Man starring Dustin Hoffman.

The day began well ease when I met my new boss, Tony Portsche, manager of the Odeon cinema in Romford. He was tall, that I do remember almost 50 years later, and smartly dressed in a light grey lounge suit which I felt had cost far more than the one I was wearing.

We began with a chat in his office, accessed through a long narrow office which had two desks and a load of filing cabinets along with a large metal two-door cupboard.

The manager’s inner office was not quite so crammed. It contained a large desk, with a leather-padded swivel chair on one side and two simple chairs opposite, a two-seater settee and a couple of armchairs at the far end and two glass display cabinets with various trophies in them and photographs on top of Tony with various film stars.

After a general ‘getting to know you’ chat Tony took me on a guided tour of the cinema complex, it was a three screen Odeon adapted from the original single auditorium with the former circle being the largest unit, with two smaller areas on the ground floor.

Like all the old 1930s art deco Odeons it still retained that look of grandeur when the normal auditorium lighting was on but in the full glare of the lights used during cleaning the signs of shabbiness were clear.

As well as the three screens he also showed me the ticket desk and confectionery counter, the stock room and the general store room and staff areas for the ushers and usherettes.

When we returned to Tony’s office there was a young woman, about my own age, at one of the desks in the outer office and Tony introduced her as the local assistant manager. Unfortunately I can’t remember her name but I know we got along during my time there.

The difference between a local assistant and a career assistant was that the local would always be an assistant manager whereas I, as a career assistant, would move on to managing my own cinema.

Once the cinema was open for the day Tony suggested I take a walk around by myself and I began in the two smaller screen areas, at Screen Two, which was showing the Western Little Big Man, a film I had not seen previously (as previously mentioned the only film we had a chance to watch on tour was Deadly Weapons).

I opened the outer door and closed it behind me before pushing the curtain to one side. As I looked up at the screen I saw, to my horror, that the image was upside down. I was about to go straight out and go to the projection room to find out what was happening.

Fortunately I waited a moment and before my eyes the image righted itself. The topsy turvey image was done from the perspective of a 19th century photographer focusing an old-fashioned plate camera from underneath a hood. As the image righted itself you could see it was a group of men.

I can only imagine that if I had dashed into the projection room demanding the film be rethreaded (like a junior reporter in a film shouting “Hold the front page” and bringing the presses to a juddering halt) then the story would have followed me round for the rest of my time with Rank, if I had got past day one that is..

I continued my tour and then went back to Tony’s office to report back. I decided NOT to mention the incident in Screen Two.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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