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What do you do with a spare Sunday and £21.00p in your pocket? Answer: Get on the bus and head for Tain in Ross & Cromerty to visit a derelict cinema!
So that's just what happened on Sunday 20th January 2008. In the first visit ever of what we hope will be many more these initial images of the former Picture House cinema were captured for your pleasure. The formar C.A.C cinema closed in 1968.
On the stage are three of four big light fittings from the ceiling.
Upstairs in the balcony seen here is one of several ashtrays mounted to the front barrier.
A sign of quality on a seat row end is the name "Kalee" from A. Kershaw & Sons, Leeds.
A remnant of the buildings days as a Town Hall is this fine leather mural.
If I counted correctly, 64 remaining original flip-up seats all in excellent usable condition- that's handy!
In the gloom of the projection room can be see two complete 35mm projectors and shown here is one of two Kalee Vulcan DL arc lamp housings. These date from the early 1930s and slightly more advanced versions of these were in Thurso's old Picture House in use until 1983.
The main projector mechanisms are leathal looking Ross systems with Western Electric soundheads, all early 1930s. Although both machines are disconected from the mains, they are operational with a clean-up, wiring check and oil change. (To be honest, I'm pretty sure they will run as they stand.)
In challenging light conditions here's a view towards the balcony and projection room.
Looking to the stage, the screen frame for a Cinemascope screen 10ft x 19ft is still in place. The blacks for top and sides are also still in place and operational along with the rack for the main curtains although the latter exist only as fragments hanging sadly. One thing though- all the operating cables have been cut. The big black thing on the stand in the middle is the speaker cone- yes one big mono speaker. No silly surround sound here!
Look carefully above the stage frame and you'll see the letters, "CAC", for Caledonian Associated Cinemas. The frame is an extension to the stage which was needed when the screen was increased to Cinemascope format.
In viewing the frame we found that the original screen before 'scope' had been further back on the stage and the top pelmit for it remains hanging behing the metal support frame for the later screen. Noticable is that CAC never lowered the ceiling as they did with many other aquisitions in the 1940s when they remodeled their locations to give them a CAC look. In some areas a CAC look was well achieved! (lol- couldn't resist that one!)
Like the Breadalbane Cinema, Wick, the Tain Picture House was not built as a cinema but in fact converted to serve the purpose. To this end both cinemas have flat floors.
In true CFT form we made some cool discoveries, firstly the original Standard Widescreen format screen.
Better still we found this...
Not every day do you find a brand new unused never-out-of-it's-box replacement screen. This find showed us the size of screen the cinema had before it went to Cinemascope. We believe the new screen was never used because Cinemascope was installed instead probly in 1955 when CAC modified all their north locations.
Details on the 'new' screen show the maker and it's size. This screen has slight damage but is fully usable- that's handy!
One last find in the projection room were four complete tickets priced at 3/6. The text form on the tickets indicate 1960s so probly in use to the last show in 1968. The tickets are printed by Glasgow Numerical Printing Co Ltd which answers a question we had about our half of a 1/6 ticket we retrieved from Thurso's Picture House.
Tain Picture House is currently subject of a restoration bid. If successful it would add a major new asset to the town and will provide up to date movie entertainment. The project has a long way to go but is well worth supporting. We would like to thank Tain Heritage Trust for allowing access to the building and wish them them every success in their efforts.
Cinema For Thurso Group campaigned for the return of permanent cinema to Thurso for 16 years and was ultimately successful so we have faith in the Tain project.