I'm a freelance journalism graduate living in the North of England.
Published October 9th 2012
With neighbouring Halifax soon set to get a cinema again after spending nine years in the film wilderness, the Rex Cinema in Elland continues to thrive.
The current owners have been running the Rex for more than twenty years, and it's their intention to stay in business for another twenty and beyond.
Rex Cinema, Elland
Originally opened in 1912 by a group of local businessmen, the cinema was then called the Picture House until it closed in January 1959. Reopening as the Rex later that year, the cinema stayed open until 1964. After a major renovation in 1988 by current owner Charles Morris and his then business partner Peter Berry, the cinema was reopened and back for good.
Charles still remembers the first opening night and how he thought it could even be the last.
The first film we showed was Big Business, starring Bette Midler. The audience was very small, only a few seats were filled," says Charles.
It was a very stormy night and we assumed that was the reason for such a small audience.
But it was the same all week. We knew people were thinking what had we let ourselves in for and to be honest, we both thought the same."
Charles and his wife Judy spent the next year posting leaflets every month at 'thousands' of houses locally around Elland and Halifax. It was the release of Shirley Valentine in 1989 that Charles says saved the cinema.
The first night we showed Shirley Valentine, the cinema was packed. It was unbelievable, we had never seen anything like it. That film really put us on the map.
If I were to close the cinema tomorrow and had to show one more film, then it would be Shirley Valentine. I can't thank her enough for what she did for us!" laughs Charles.
The Rex cinema oozes tradition. There is only one screen, and the cinema only holds around 150 people. This old world charm, as Charles puts it, is one of the many reasons why people keep going back to the Rex despite competition from local multiplexes.
"We offer a personal service here at the Rex," explains Charles.
"We don't hurry anybody in and out of the film and we pride ourselves on the general courtesy of the cinema.
When we opened, we were well aware of the cinema in Halifax and many people told us they didn't enjoy going, as the children there were very loud and noisy. We made a point of making sure the behaviour in our cinema was different. We gained a lot of custom for this reason."
Charles is certainly right - the behaviour at the Rex is impeccable. Family films are only shown on a weekend and when I visited on a Saturday afternoon, the cinema was full to the brim with parents and their young children and there wasn't a disruptive child (or adult!) in sight.
Charles also puts the Rex's success down to the admission prices. Whilst a family of four could expect to pay around £25 at a local multiplex, it would only cost £16 at the Rex.
The upcoming cinema in Halifax is certainly a threat to the Rex but Charles says he can't worry too much.
"Most people who visit the Rex come to us because they prefer the way we run things here," he says.
"We offer a different variety of film than multiplexes do. Of course we show the latest releases but we also show films from the archive. We can't dwell too much on the cinema that's being built in Halifax."
Of course, only time will tell if the cinema in Halifax has a big impact on the Rex.
The Rex receives little recognition for the fantastic cinema that it is. As Charles says, the cinema offers a wide variety of films. During the week they often have film nights, the most recent one being the Laurel & Hardy film night where cinema goers can watch one feature film and three short films from the archive, all at a very reasonable price of just £5.
With customers coming from far away as Leeds and Manchester, it's clear that there is a place in the modern world for a good old-fashioned cinema experience. From what I've seen, long may it continue.