Replaying scenes of movie magic

PALATIAL: The County stood on the site of  Winch and Blatch Homeware.
PALATIAL: The County stood on the site of Winch and Blatch Homeware.

Calls for a cinema top the wish list in just about every survey of the changes people would like to see in Sudbury.

But not that long ago, the town’s film fans had a choice of two cinemas where they could marvel at action epics, sigh over their screen idol, or laugh out loud at the antics of Mickey Mouse.

If you remember those days, Simon Frampton would like to hear from you.

Did you head for The County – the plush picture palace in King Street – for a weekly dose of Hollywood magic?

Maybe you queued in the rain to see the latest Elvis film at the Gainsborough.

Perhaps you worked in the box office, or might even have been behind the projector as Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments or when Gene Kelly sang in the rain.

Or were your teenage years spent indulging in back row hanky-panky while trying to avoid the glare of the usherette’s torch?

Simon has researched the history of cinema in Sudbury for a talk he is giving at The Quay Theatre next week – and plans to include as many anecdotes as possible from people who were there.

He is calling on anyone with memories of the town’s movie heyday to contact him.

“I’ve got lots of information already,” he says. “But it would be wonderful to have more from those who were actually involved.

“I’m especially keen to hear about The County, which closed in the early 1960s. Everyone says it was by far the smartest of the cinemas, a real picture palace.

“So far, I haven’t been able to track down anyone who worked there.”

But he has discovered that the original British blonde bombshell, Diana Dors, visited The County to open a showing of one of her films. “That must have been quite a memorable event for Sudbury,” he says.

The Gainsborough, which closed in the 1980s, was one of Suffolk’s earliest purpose-built cinemas.

“I found the original plans and they dated from 1912,” said Simon. “At first, it was known as the Gainsborough Electric Theatre.

“I have managed to trace one lady who is in her 90s now, who was a projectionist there during the Second World War.

“But Sudbury had an even earlier venue for films. I’m told a barn behind the White Horse pub was used before the First World War and I’d really like to find out more about that.”

Simon, who runs a monthly film club at the Quay, says: “Researching the town’s cinemas is an exciting project.

“I want to build up an aural history, recording and maybe filming people talking about it as well, so we have a permanent record.”

He can be contacted on 01787 580453 or by email at press@quaytheatre.org.uk.

His talk, The Birth and Death of Sudbury Cinemas, can be heard on Sunday, April 6. The double bill, which also features Peter Rednall on the history of the railway in Sudbury, starts at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £7.