George and Rena popped into the Burgh Collection to have a chat and share their memories of the Regal Cinema, Crichton St Anstruther.

Rena’s father Lindsay Berwick ran the cinema along with other family and friends from the 1950s. However the cinema itself dates back further being built in 1934. The first film shown on the opening night of 19th July 1934 was Footlight Parade starring James Cagney.

Man and woman

In its heyday The Regal showed films every night with extra children’s shows on Saturday morning. Tickets were issued at the kiosk, which also sold ice creams and orange juice. The ushers would tear the tickets in half – returning a portion attendee. Local children got around paying and sneaking in by having friends open the emergency door once the lights had gone down. If spotted by the ushers on their way up and down the stalls they would demand to see their tickets and thrown out of the cinema.

The films were very well attended by holidaymakers as well as by locals. George recalled that often, if the weather was poor, Lindsay would send a van around the Holiday Camp with loudspeakers telling people they would be showing a film that afternoon. The holidaymakers then flocked to the cinema for some indoor entertainment out of the rain. Another attraction of going to the cinema for some was the double seating, without armrests, in the last two rows of the balcony. Rena and George remember they were very popular with teenagers.

They recalled stories of Ossie, the projectionist who had to change reels part way through a film. This was often needed three or four times during the film and if he didn’t notice a reel had finished the audience would stamp their feet waiting on the picture coming back on. The projector was a complicated piece of machinery with skill and care needed to thread the film then line up carbon rods which provided the light to project the film.

Once a reel was finished it had to be rewound back onto another reel to be handed back to the film distributers. George remembers a van coming every week to collect and drop off the films.

By the 1960s people had their own televisions in the home and cinema going began to decline. Rena said that one way to encourage audiences into to the Regal was the introduction of Bingo. Every Friday night a mini- bingo was run in the front seats with the caller on the stage starting at 7.15pm. It offered small prizes such as would be found at a fairground bingo. Then the main bingo event started at 8pm offering what for the time would have been large prize money, £100 on a snowball on getting full house by 50 numbers being called and various other ‘in the game’ prizes. This was a very popular event and very well attended. Oddly many patrons preferred to sit up in the balcony when playing rather than closer to the stage. George invented a very ingenious device to save him running up and down stairs – a tin can on a pulley string. When someone called house, he could pop the card into the can and send it downstairs to be checked and the cash prize would be sent back up so the game wasn’t interrupted for long, which would not have gone down well with the bingo players!

Two people standing behind a podium with Bingo on the front

Eventually the cinema audiences declined further. George and Rena recalled that people’s ideas of a night out altered. It had been common for as well as a cinema visit for people to have gone to see a live band performing in a local hall. People often started the evening in the cinema, went on to a dance and finished the evening off in one of the local pubs.

However with discos and dancing to recorded music become more popular and the attractions of nightclubs opening in Leven and Kirkcaldy the local live entertainment was not so well attended. Along with that, there was a decline in going regularly to the cinema.

The Regal Cinema closed in 1972, the last film shown being Lawrence of Arabia. The building was eventually knocked down to make way for housing.

George and Rena remembered the enjoyment of working in the cinema with all their friends and relatives and spoke fondly of that time. We are very grateful to them for sharing their memories with us.

We were unable to check the spelling of Ozzie, the projectionists’ name, apologies if it is not correct, we will be happy to change this if anyone knows what spelling he preferred.

Also see Happy Days, one of the Burgh Collection books which tells the story of holidaymakers visiting Anstruther from the 1950s.