PAUL NEWELL: Dodgy spoilers and even dodgier horror – that was cinema in the 80s

As a youngster, I loved killing time at my local cinema (Flickr: labelled for reuse)
As a youngster, I loved killing time at my local cinema (Flickr: labelled for reuse)
A 1903 picture showing 'Point A on the Portsdown & Horndean Light Railway where two former horse tram cars acted as shelters.
Picture: Barry Cox Collection

NOSTALGIA: Hidden Portsmouth steps revealed, 107 years after they fell into disuse

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When video recorders were young and before the easy access to films on the cable channels, the cinema was the best, and only, medium to see films.

That is not strictly true. At Easter and Christmas the TV and Radio times were eagerly scoured to see what films would be shown…usually Disney, but they were always old.

I can remember four cinemas across Portsmouth in the 70s and early 80s. Sadly none of them remain. Odeon was in North End and somewhere along Highland Road and ABC was in Cosham High Street and Commercial Road. I only went to the Highland Road Odeon once to see ET there…I had something in my eye ok…not real tears!

Living in Hilsea, we tended to go to the North End Odeon. It’s now a Sainsbury’s I believe. It had four screens and we used to get excited when the new advertising posters went up for the latest film. The first film I ever saw was Bambi…it was very dusty in there as well…sniff! The first film I went to see without my parents was Never Ending Story. I felt very grown up.

Back then you saw two films for your money. One was usually dog related; Lassie for example, or it was a cartoon. After the first film there would be an intermission when you could buy ice cream from the usherette. Saturday morning kids’ clubs were popular. I went once, it was too lawless for my delicate disposition!

We went to see Gremlins at the Cosham ABC. The floor was on an incline and, at a particularly tense moment, somebody dropped their bag of M&Ms making everybody jump as they rolled noisily to the front of the auditorium.

I enjoyed going to the cinema. Popular films of the time included the Back to the Future trilogy, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, Superman and Return of the Jedi to name but a few. We always went to see the latest Disney cartoon.

I have two abiding memories of the North End Odeon. The first was standing in the queue, (yes, you queued in those days and sometimes were turned away when it was full), waiting to see “The Empire Strikes Back”. I was five when “Star Wars “came out so I was a little young, but was fully up to speed three years later as I waited to go in.

The big rumour spreading up and down the queue was that Boba Fett was Luke Skywalker’s father. Where that came from I have no idea, but the reveal that it was in fact Darth Vader brought suitable gasps from impressionable wannabe Lukes. I was more a Han Solo fan so I was gutted when he met his end in Episode VII….my tear ducts can cope with the dust nowadays!

The second memory involved my best friend. We wanted to go and see House 2, a sorry excuse for a horror film. It was rated a 15 and he was only 14. Most streetwise kids would not be bothered but we were riddled with angst and formulated a plan to get in. I would do the talking, so when asked my age, I correctly gave my date of birth and stated confidently that my friend was even older than me. The cashier looked unimpressed and asked him his date of birth. He politely told his correct date of birth which showed him to be 14 and me a liar. I looked at him in horror but the cashier obviously took pity on our pathetic attempt and waved us in. We were triumphant, such rebels…the film was rubbish!