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Long Lost Treasure: A Rank Above

This month your resident heritage curator takes us back to when ODEON Ayr had just closed, and the Astoria had not yet been born. When your friendly team of projectionists paid our old neighbour a very special visit.



ODEON Ayr opened on 30th July 1938, just over three years after the Broadway, and served Ayrshire the longest of any cinema in the region, before finally closing on 4th June 2023 after almost 85 years of service. We were at that final screening, and it was a sad occasion, with everyone in attendance fearing at the time they had witnessed the final film to be shown in the building. And yet emotions were mixed, as the very next day, we were back!

 

With enormous thanks to Colin Butler, a technician of ODEON who happens to live locally, the Broadway were invited to collect remaining 35mm projection equipment still in situ, untouched since the digital rollout of the early 2010s. A visit of this type was unprecedented. To be granted access to a major cinema chain for the chance to save unused and otherwise condemned projection equipment was a remarkable opportunity and extremely rare. For us, it provided a chance to preserve a small piece of the ODEON's history, and bring it back to life in the Broadway of the future, to show film once again for the same communities that it had served for decades.



Walking into the cinema the day after watching its final film was quite surreal in itself. As my own childhood cinema, I held countless memories of awkward teenage dates, smuggling in sweets from Blockbuster next door, and even a power-cut in the middle of a horror film when sheer terror turned into a huge anti-climax waiting for the jump-scare that never came! Even my first ever cinema experience was here when I was just three years old. So to now be allowed behind-the-scenes to tour the projection rooms and peek behind the screens was a core memory I'll cherish forever. And what we found waiting for us in the projection room of Screen 4 was beyond even our chief projectionist's wildest dreams!



A Rank RK60.

 

Underneath the Rank logo, this glorious machine is in reality a re-branded Cinemeccanica Victoria 8, that would have first entered service at the ODEON some time in the 1960s. That means that if you ever enjoyed a film at ODEON Ayr even as far back as the days of the single auditorium, or in Screen 4 after the dividing of 1987, this was the projector that showed you those films, and provided countless memories for generations of Ayrshire cinemagoers.

 

When first commissioned, the RK60 would have been top of the range. A beautifully crafted and highly versatile model, we were incredibly excited and honoured to bring the re-named Vic 8 back to the Broadway and into our own fleet of 35mm projectors, ready to be brought back to life. As this versatility brings with it a truly massive opportunity.



As although our RK60 was only ever designed for 35mm film, the model holds the potential for conversion to 70mm. Yes, 70mm. With the support of our friends at the Projected Picture Trust, we aim for the Broadway of the future to not only host 35mm screenings, but also 16mm and even 70mm too! This will place your neighbourhood cinema in a very elite group in Scotland, with only one other cinema in the entire country, Glasgow Film Theatre, currently able to play host to 70mm screenings. And restoration has already begun courtesy of our very own electrical and mechanical wizard, Keith! The old and confusing spaghetti wiring of the 60s has been removed and replaced with a temporary supply, meaning that for our open days to round off 2023, the old girl was once again ticking over and on display for all to see!

Much has happened since that day of transporting the RK60 and much more from the ODEON to the Broadway, and thankfully in many ways everything has worked out beautifully! The ODEON was saved, bought by Merlin and now since re-opened as the Astoria, an incredible victory for golden age cinema in Ayrshire, as our long-standing Art Deco neighbour will now continue to serve Ayr for generations to come. And yet, the Astoria reportedly had no plans to utilise or bring back the 35mm technology. Not included in the list of equipment to remain for the new owners, the RK60 would have been discarded and cast aside. Yet in the end, all was saved! While its former home enters a new era with a bright future, the RK60 has found a new home across the burgh border. To be commissioned once again, this time for the glory of 70mm!


Thanks to the projector that showed me my first film 24 years ago, the pinnacle of cinema exhibition is coming to Prestwick!

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Excellent article, and so much cooperation fae the Odeon group and employees with the donation.

There is so much positivity in these articles, and once I'm better and able to drive again I hope to support you and volunteer in the reopened Broadway.

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