Do you recall those times in days of yore?
Does that most fickle of mistresses, nostalgia, drag you away to that special
building where the chung-ching of the ticket machine heralded your entrance to
the poster-paint deco artwork of that beautiful auditorium, where you selected a
red velveteen seat and began stripping the awkward paper wrapping from a Mivi
ice-lolly? You fumbled for your partner's hand and gently tussled for the finite
space of the arm-rest. Finally settled, you prepared to enter another world -
one of colour and fantasy, romance and horror, intrigue, laughter and tears, and
the problems of the day receded far into the background. The lights dimmed, the
packed crowd hushed and the faint whirr of a winding motor could be heard
parting those twenty foot high silk curtains. Then wham! The projector beam hit
the screen, scything through the drifting smoke, as hundreds of ordinary fans
became willing slaves to the whole panoply of Hollywood brilliance. For two
hours in the dark, nothing else mattered as you soared and swooped, gasped and
guffawed, cheered and chuckled. Because this was your home town and you had paid
for that sacred piece of space in your very own Theatre of Dreams.
Every city and town in the entire world had
a much-loved cinema. Whether a Byzantine deco-palace or a cosy provincial
flea-pit, they provided endless thrills, spills, tears and laughs to anyone with
the price of admission. For more than seventy years the flicks was the 'jewel in
the crown' of everyone's social life and spread its magic from Chicago to
Calcutta, Mombassa to Melbourne. They popped up everywhere and no culture or
regime could long halt their advance: in Rangoon, Riyadh, Shanghai and Santiago
- young and old alike were beguiled by the endless flickering images which
promoted an insatiable desire to be entertained.
'SHAZAM!' is the story of one such cinema.
A shire town flicks which achieved legendary status with the four generations of
twentieth century dreamers who walked up its marble steps.