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NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Broadway turns 21

2 September 11 words: Alison Emm
Get out your party hats for the coming of age of Nottingham's independent cinema
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21 this week

1990: The Prodigy formed, Marty McFly went Back to the Future for the last time, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after a gruelling twenty-eight years, The poll tax (or council tax to you young 'uns) was introduced in the UK, Maggie Thatcher was toppled as Prime Minister, East and West Germany reunited as a nation, France and England shook hands through the first hole in the Channel Tunnel, Pinochet was voted out of the Chilean presidency, and Timmy Mallet got to No.1 with Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.

More locally though, in August 1990, Nottingham’s very own independent cinema Broadway was officially opened.  Since then it has been voted as one of the top ten cinemas in the world by Total Film magazine, and has been graced by the presence of many a film legend - including Norman Wisdom, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Schrader, Danny Boyle and Armando Iannucci.

The site was originally home to a Wesleyan Chapel where William Booth, a local pawnbroker and soon-to-be founder of The Salvation Army, was a member of the congregation.  After struggling financially in the forties and fifties, the chapel closed its doors to the flock.  All was not lost, though; the building was bought by Nottingham Co-operative Society with the aim to turn it into the country’s first Co-operative Educational Centre, complete with 500-seat theatre space and 35mm and 16mm projection facilities.

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A pre-revamped Broadway

In 1957 the Nottingham & District Film Society merged with the Nottingham Co-operative Film Society and they began running monthly screenings of international and archive films in the auditorium which opened in 1959. In the same year, the Film Society began discussions with the British Film Institute (BFI) about gaining official status as a Regional Film Theatre and on 22 September 1966 the Nottingham Film Theatre opened its doors to the public – the first in a wave of Regional Film Theatres to be established around the UK in the late sixties and early seventies.

Jump forward a decade or two and Broadway Cinema was born out of a consortium of four local media organisations: Nottingham Film Theatre, New Cinema Workshop, Midland Group and Nottingham Video Project. With support from the BFI, East Midlands Arts, Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council.  It was then that the building became the Broadway Cinema.

The building was originally split between the chapel, which housed the cinema, and the church house, where the admin offices were. A New York-style alleyway ran between the buildings, and a homeless man used to sleep on the fire escape.  In 1992 the first improvements to Broadway were made with the addition of disabled access, a sprucing-up of the foyer, and the opening of Screen 2. The window in the wall of the CaféBar (posh name: aedicule) - was created in this year too.   

Flourishing nicely in the boom of the late nineties, Broadway began letting out low-cost office space to artists and filmmakers, and merged with its biggest tenant, production and training company Intermedia.  Another massive overhaul of the building took place in 2006 -  Screen 3 was opened, as was the small but perfectly formed Screen 4 - designed by local lad and regular patron Sir Paul Smith.  Add to this another bar in the shape of the Mezz bar and lounge, as well as lots more work and education facilities and a new front.

So here we are. If Broadway was human and American, it’d be able to go down the local and have a drink to celebrate.  It’s not, though - it’s a British cinema and proud of it.  So Broadway decided to commemorate the occasion with a custom-made cake in the shape of one of their cinema seats from local bespoke cake makers Liane Stevens and Maidie Semiras (Swirls Bakery).

Filmmakers Ben Wigley and Mark Pyper were also commissioned to make a mini-masterpiece about Broadway’s coming-of-age and its celebratory sweet sculpture. Wigley, who is based in Broadway, has recently won acclaim and awards at film festivals for PS Your Mystery Sender, the short about a fantastic mystery surrounding Sir Paul Smith. The new film documents the making of Liana’s cake whilst also paying cheeky homage to some of cinema’s finest moments by recreating famous scenes including the likes of Singin’ in the Rain

Broadway website

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