Monday, November 07, 2011

Sleaford Picturedrome

click photo to enlarge
The first cinemas in Britain were built in the years before the First World War. They were generally small with fanciful facade details in a debased Art Nouveau or Classical style applied in relatively cheap materials.  The real heyday of cinema construction began in the 1920s, speeded up after the introduction of the "talkies" in 1927, and continued through the 1930s. A theatre for moving film projection was a new building type. However, designers initially based the layout on a traditional theatre, though the area of the stage was reduced and the associated machinery and layers of curtains were clearly not required. The later cinemas were essentially functional buildings overlaid with a decorative style on the facade and in the public rooms and auditorium. These styles were plundered from many lands and periods - Moorish, Classical and Art Deco were popular but in the 1930s a streamlined Moderne took hold featuring cream tiles, fins, windows wrapped around corners and sometimes columns, lotus flowers and tapering pilasters sourced from Egyptian temples.

Today's photograph shows a former cinema - The Picturedrome - at Sleaford in Lincolnshire. Like many such buildings it no longer fulfils its original purpose and is now closed, but it still shows evidence of its recent use as a nightclub. It was built in 1920 in a sort of stripped Classical style. The main entrance is flanked by columns, with a large Diocletian window with a rusticated surround above. The cornice has regularly spaced paterae-like circles and in the centre of the attic storey is a circular window with what look like husk garlands and some Greek key pattern. The inside had a rectangular proscenium arch, a barrel vaulted ceiling and painted panels decorating the walls. It could seat 900 people and it was apparently so successful that a balcony extension was installed to seat a further 80. Who knows what its future holds?

You may be wondering about the colours of this particular photograph. I turned the original colour shot into black and white and then gave it a digital blue and sepia "split toning" effect. In the days of film, when I processed and printed my own black and white photographs, I always wanted to try split toning but the apparent complexity of it put me off. Essentially it involves using two different coloured toners which affect the shadows and light areas differently. Digital split toning mimics this. I've applied the effect once before, and I think it is a very good fit for the subject - the new seafront at Cleveleys, Lancashire. I thought this cinema might also benefit from the treatment.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On