Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Enjoy Cinema 1914 Style

Published Thursday, 07 August 2014
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Roll up, roll up, Friday night is going to be a very special film night in the splendid grounds of Belfast's City Hall.

Everyone is invited to A Night in the Cinema 1914, a fun extravaganza of silent cinema on the Big Screen from a century ago. So why not dress up in period costume and delight in fabulous vintage shorts like The Perils of Pauline or The Rollicking Rajah in an evening of al fresco entertainment. And best of all, it's for the whole family and absolutely free!

Marking the centenary of the start of World War 1, this special programme of early films recreates a typical night out at the cinema in 1914. Feature films were rare, so the programme would have been an entertaining, ever-changing roster of short items with live musical accompaniment. A century later and this special compilation from the British Film Institute's archive recreates the glorious miscellany of comedies, dramas, travelogues and newsreels. The selection includes a comic short about a face-pulling competition, poignant scenes of Allied troops celebrating Christmas on the Western Front, and an early sighting of one of cinema's greatest icons.

1914 was a time when film-going was only really beginning to flourish in the booming city of Belfast. Crowds flocked to see 'moving pictures' in music halls like the Alhambra in Lower North Street or to the first picture palaces like the Electric on York Street. Cinema had sensationally arrived in the city eighteen years earlier, when the Lumiere brothers short film, The Arrival of a Train was screened in the Empire Theatre in Victoria Square. Such was the realistic thrill of watching a steam engine advance towards them, that the audience fled their seats in terror. Never mind 21st century special effects, cinemas today can only dream of such a stunning reaction.

"A Night at the Cinema 1914" explains Film Hub NI's Hugh Odling-Smee, "is a fascinating look at what cinema audiences saw 100 years ago, and demonstrates how important cinema was in communicating news, giving entertainment and offering escapism, just as it does now". Event partner Susan Picken from the QFT sees the night, "As a fitting way for us to not only mark the centenary of the Great War but to reflect on the history of film itself. This promises to be a unique experience and one not to be missed."

The evening event is preceded by a free lunchtime screening of a BFI lovingly restored version of the Ernest Hemingway classic, A Farewell to Arms starring Gary Cooper. A Night at the Cinema 1914 promises to be a night to remember for lovers of cinema, history or those simply seeking a rollicking good night out. Period costume is entirely optional but most welcome.


A Night at The Cinema 1914 takes place at Belfast City Hall on Friday 8 August at 6pm. Admission is free, but booking is advised. Tickets are available here

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.

Twice.

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