The Watchers

The Watchers

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Cinematic Memories (Part Two)

The ABC and Odeon Queen Street cinemas (c. 1998) - with thanks to Cinema Treasures

I first moved to Cardiff in 1997. Going from a small town in West Wales, where the nearest cinema was a half-hour drive away and a single screen venue which wasn't particularly hot at getting the new releases, to a thriving city of multiplexes where I could nip to the cinema any time I fancied (within reason, of course), I was in my element. 

I was absolutely spoiled for choice. Queen Street had 3 cinemas alone, as well as the massive UCI complex in the Red Dragon Centre in Cardiff Bay, Chapter Arts Centre in Canton and the Globe Cinema in Roath. 

Truly, my cinematic cup runneth over.

I spent my first night in Cardiff at the ABC cinema on Queen Street. I was the only person in my flat in my halls of residence, having moved in on the Friday, so was at a loose end. I saw Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery and laughed myself stupid. The ABC Cinema became my cinema of choice- not least because of the frankly amazing student discount (£2.20 per film, all day, everyday- can you imagine a cinema offering a screening for that price nowadays?). It was a 3-screen cinema, a bit ratty, a bit past its prime, not quite a fleapit but not far off, but that didn't matter. It was where I saw my first James Bond film on the big screen (Tomorrow Never Dies).

The other two cinemas on Queen Street were both Odeons - a small 2-screen place and the 5-screen one appended to the Capitol shopping centre. It was in the Capitol Odeon that I saw The Exorcist when it was re-classified by the BBFC in 1998. For a film I'd only known through parody and rip-off, it still retains a genuinely unnerving atmosphere and I remember being thrilled by it. In the 2-screen Odeon, I saw South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut twice (the second time to see what I missed when I was laughing so much the first time) and was dumbstruck by American Beauty. 

One of my most abiding cinematic memories was seeing Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho on the big screen when it was screened at Chapter Arts Centre. Just amazing. I only visited the Globe Cinema a few times, once to see Catherine Breillat's Romance (which made me feel very uncomfortable) and once to see The Blair Witch Project (which freaked me out royally).

Capitol Odeon cinema (c. 1998) - with thanks to Cinema Treasures
The three Queen Street cinemas sadly no longer exist. The ABC cinema closed in 1999 and the building was converted into shops, whilst the 2-screen Odeon closed in 2000 and is now the site of HMV. The Capitol Odeon closed in 2001 and the building still remains, locked up and left to rot (which is a very sad sight). 

The Red Dragon Centre cinema is now an Odeon, including an IMAX screen. Whilst the Globe Cinema closed and is now used as a live music venue, Chapter Arts Centre is thankfully still going and is still a fantastic venue for world and independent cinema, showings of classic films, and live broadcasts, as well as the latest releases.

There are 2 multiplex cinemas in the city centre: Vue and Cineworld (formerly UGC). Cineworld is now my cinema of choice, thanks in no small part to the Unlimited card which allows me to indulge my passion for a very reasonable monthly fee which, given the frankly exorbitant cost of going to the cinema these days, is a great way of doing it. The first film I ever saw in the UGC was Tim Burton's Planet Of The Apes in July 2001. Luckily I've seen a lot more and lot better films since then.


P.S. A huge thanks to Cinema Treasures for helping with some of the details for this article (and for some of the pictures).

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