Skip to main content

35 years of 35mm film at the Film Society

Warwick Student Cinema recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. Clive Gardener (BSc Computer Science 1973-76) was one of the founders of the re-formed Film Society and looks back at 35 years of 35mm at Warwick.

In recent years you have probably enjoyed 5.1 surround sound in your living room, but, for selected films, three-channel stereo across the screen and surround sound around the theatre has been a special feature of the society’s screenings since October 1978.

At Christmas 1978, during the British Federation of Film Societies Conference held at Warwick, Ken Russell’s film Tommy sounded better in 35mm 4-track magnetic sound in L3 than it had on release in the West End of London! Dolby-A enhancement for optical sound was introduced in April 1981 and Cinemeccanica 70mm projection, with 6-track magnetic sound, arrived in October 1993. Did you watch a movie or two in L3 whilst studying at Warwick? October 2011 was the 35th anniversary of 35mm film screenings by The Film Society, now impressively known as Warwick Student Cinema.

The film industry is still going strong today but the technology used for showing movies on ‘the big screen’ has continued to evolve. In marking the anniversary, WSC launched its first professional digital cinema screening with a showing of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) on 6th October 2011. The latest digital technology has helped restore one of the cinema’s early great masterpieces to a state close to that in which it was originally seen when first released. So, if you remember silent movies as being synonymous with ‘the flicks’, now is the time to take a second look – and be surprised!

On the anniversary it seemed an appropriate moment to donate 16 spare copies of the Film Society’s programme booklets, spanning the years 1975–88, to the University’s Modern Records Centre. You can check with the University of Warwick Archive to find the current holdings of programmes. The booklets provide a valuable social history in detailing the films we chose to watch during our time at Warwick.

In addition, a database of film screenings, 1973–93, has been compiled to complement and expand the listings currently maintained by WSC, from the early 1990s to date. However, a few programmes are still missing: summer ’85, summer ’87 and most between summer ’89 – summer ’91. There is also scope to extend the record backwards from Autumn ‘73, should any earlier film-listing sheets have survived amongst graduates’ caches of old papers from Warwick. Can you assist by donating any unwanted copies of old Film Society programmes to the Modern Records Centre, to help build up the collection?

So, how did 35mm film screenings begin all those years ago – on 9th October 1976? Late on the Saturday night, the first film to be screened on the society’s restored Gaumont-Kalee projection equipment was Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, followed shortly afterwards on the Sunday afternoon by the second half of the intended double-bill: Ken Russell’s The Boy Friend, starring Twiggy and Christopher Gable.

Were you there . . . ? . . . at one time or another? Take a look at Warwick Student Cinema and if you have any photos or memories that you would like to share with other alumni, please email them to us and we'll post them on the website.