Jonathan Melville: Cameo role for 100th birthday

Jim Poole and Cary Grant Cameo Cinema. Pic: Comp
Jim Poole and Cary Grant Cameo Cinema. Pic: Comp
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THIS week is something of a landmark on the Capital’s film-going scene, as the Cameo celebrates its 100th birthday.

Technically it’s not the Cameo that’s 100 but the building itself, which opened as the King’s Cinema on 8 January, 1914. In the early days the main auditorium could seat 673 people for its silent film screenings with live music. It wasn’t until 1930 that it began showing the ‘talkies’.

It was the legendary cinema owner, Jim Poole, (pictured with Cary Grant) who named it the Cameo in 1949 and began showing a more diverse programme.

Although it closed in 1982, the Cameo was back in action by 1986.

I remember visiting the cinema regularly as a student in the mid-90s, attending midnight double bills such as Highlander/The Crow or seeing Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting on opening night.

It’s not all been plain sailing in recent years. In 2005 there was uproar when the owners announced plans to significantly alter the interior, leading to a successful Save the Cameo campaign by locals.

Programming decisions are now made in London, meaning the arrival of more films you can see at the multiplex - four of the five films shown on its anniversary day could also be watched at the nearby Cineworld and Odeon - the loss of popular Sunday double bills and the removal of the independence so important to Jim Poole.

Still, special events such as All Night Horror Madness and regular foreign language/art house screenings prove there’s a desire to offer something different and and hopefully we’ll soon hear details of a major centenary celebration.


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