The Cinema House’s Golden Jubilee

Cinema House PosterIn December 1963, The Cinema House celebrated its Golden Jubilee. In the extended build up to the celebrations – marked by gold posters and banner advertisements celebrating the cinema’s continued role in ‘entertaining town and gown’ – The Citizen explained that ‘a number of local people who attended the original opening performance’ had been invited to attend a Jubilee screening. These included Mrs J. Lindsay, who was a cashier at the box office in 1913, Arnott Fyfe, who was assisting in the operating box, and Strathkinnes schoolmaster W. Howie (who was then a boy).

The programme chosen to mark the cinema’s Golden Jubilee was a somewhat unlikely double bill. Alongside local historical footage of St Andrews, patrons would watch ‘the year’s Big Thrill Success’, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

The programming of familiar local footage – offering the chance to ‘see St Andrews and her people of 42 years ago!’ – alongside The Birds, served to recontextualise Hitchcock’s perilous tale of terror on a remote, coastal town for local audiences. While the film had relocated Daphne De Maurier’s short story, from Cornwall to California, the screening in St Andrews – juxtaposed with local footage – served to reverse this process, localising the narrative for those attending and relating the footage from San Francisco back to Britain’s coastline. While the prospect of The Birds may not have been wholly appealing to those that had attended the opening night screening of Lorna Doone and The Amateur Plumber in 1913, The Cinema House offered free admittance to all old age pensioners throughout its jubilee week. However, posters revealed the exact start time for the local footage (6.6 and 8.20) and for The Birds (6.15 and 8.29), suggesting that some of the pensioners may have managed to get out before The Birds arrived. For those that didn’t want to watch The Birds during this week, their other options included a trip to La Scala in Cupar, where they could see Hitchcock’s previous film, Psycho.

Despite the geographical distance between the film’s location, Bodega Bay and St Andrews, the narrative of The Birds continues to resonate with residents and tourists in St Andrews, who according to local press reports have recently been subject to ‘bird attacks’ within the town. In response to a seagull problem that had reached ‘epidemic proportions’ – with birds ‘divebomb[ing] people’ – the council introduced birds of prey in 2012 to ‘patrol the skies over St Andrews.’

By now, The Cinema House is no more. While advertisements in 1963 had confidently proclaimed ‘Now for the Century!’, the cinema would close almost exactly 16 years later.

Tom Rice (with thanks to Asta Hiippala)

Works Cited:

‘Cinema House Celebration: Fifty Years Old This Week’, The Citizen, 30 November 1963, 5.

The Citizen, 23 November 1963, 4; 30 November 1963, 1, 3, 4; 7 December 1963, 4.

‘Fed up St Andrews Residents to Give Seagulls the Bird’, Fife Today, 2 March 2012.