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UK supporting features / B pictures

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  • UK supporting features / B pictures

    Hello,

    Something I've always wondered about but could never find a soild answer for. I hope a fellow reader can help me out.

    Being 47 years old I can (just about) remember cinema going in the UK in the early 1980s where you got a short film preceeding the main feature (usually about Alaskan Oil Pipes, Life of a Kingfisher or some such) and I know that double bills usually did the rounds some time after the initial release. My question is about supporting feature films. Did they play before the main film as the title suggests, to support the bigger picture? I think this may be the case in the UK but I have read that in America 'B' pictures played after the main film. (I watched a Clint Eastwood interview and he remarked how he used to stay after the main feature to watch the B picture, which he said was usually a more enjoyable film).

    I know that there are some old projectionists on this board that could possibly clear this up. It's a subject that I find interesting and have more questions if anyone can reply.

    Thank you for reading and I hope to hear from

  • #2
    The Americans never had to put up with those appalling travelogues and documentaries that British audiences did. Fortunately Monty Python were around to stake them through the heart in 1979.
     

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    • #3
      The supporting film went on first.Performances were continuous.So if you came in half way through you stayed to the part where you came in.Double bills faded out in the seventies.Then we were subjected to some truly dreadful Global/Queensway shorts.Telly Savalas lauding the merits of Birmingham.Anyway it was Thatch and her axing of Eady Levy which finally got rid of the shorts.In actual fact these shorts often earned more from Eady levy than the main feature got from the box office.

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      • #4
        In my experience of cinemagoing on the 1950s and being a projectionist from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, the feature always went on first, followed by a short such as Look at Life or Pathe Pictorial, followed by the supporting feature (or 2nd feature as we called it), followed by the adverts and trailers, followed by the newsreel and perhaps a cartoon, followed by the main feature again. Programmes were continuous all day until about 10:15 at night. Exceptions to this were if the main film was a very long epic, such as "Spartacus", where you had two programmes a day. One in the afternoon and one in the evening. In which case, there was no room in the programme for a second feature, so the programme began with the adverts and trailers, followed by a couple of shorts, followed by the main film. By the late 1970s, the second features were no longer being made, and neither were the very long epics, so feature film double bills became the norm, such as "The Gauntlet" and "Dirty Harry" or Enter The Dragon" and "Game of Death".

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        • #5
          [QUOTE=darrenburnfan;n9469]In my experience of cinemagoing on the 1950s and being a projectionist from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, the feature always went on first, followed by a short such as Look at Life or Pathe Pictorial, followed by the supporting feature (or 2nd feature as we called it), followed by the adverts and trailers, followed by the newsreel and perhaps a cartoon, followed by the main feature again. Programmes were continuous all day until about 10:15 at night. Exceptions to this were if the main film was a very long epic, such as "Spartacus", where you had two programmes a day. One in the afternoon and one in the evening. In which case, there was no room in the programme for a second feature, so the programme began with the adverts and trailers, followed by a couple of shorts, followed by the main film. By the late 1970s, the second features were no longer being made, and neither were the very long epics, so feature film double bills became the norm, such as "The Gauntlet" and "Dirty Harry" or Enter The Dragon" and "Game of Death".[/QUOTE]

          That's a bit misleading DBF, the feature only went on first at the start of the day, because there wasn't time for three complete shows. Thus the show would run feature/support/feature/support/feature. The last complete performance would always start with the support. But, as has been stated before, performances were continuous (no bookable seats in those days) and you could go in and come out when you liked.

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          • #6
            . . . and if you missed the beginning of the feature, you just stayed until it played round again.

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            • #7
              I saw Phone Booth (Will Ferrell, Kiefer Sutherland) in the late Odeon, Marble Arch (just around the corner from where I am now working - and typing this - coincidentally!) on 07/05/03 and there was a supporting short called Beat The Devil :)

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              • #8
                Thanks for all your replies. I wasn't aware of that Python short - cheers for that!

                Was the "Beat the Devil" short the one directed by Tony Scott with Clive Owen, Gary Oldman and James Brown?!! Just looked it up on IMDb and there were a few of these BMW sponsored adverts/short films made all starring Clive Owen. i'd never heard of them and shall have to check them out.

                It's a shame they don't regularly play short films anymore. I remember some great shorts - "The Big Story" which played before Pulp Fiction in 1994 and "Black Angel" before The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 (both of which are on YouTube).

                Does anyone remember "Towers of Babel" with Bryan Pringle? - I think I saw it before National Lampoon's Vacation in 1983.

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                • #9
                  I have a diary of every film I have seen at the cinema since 1961.Now whilst there were bills with 2 co features,basically at ABC you would get an Edgar Wallace film first.At the Odeon either a short or an abridged version of one of their films.

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                  • #10
                    Towers of Babel, most of it is on youtube. I give that one points for "weird" at least. I saw it with The Dead Zone at the ABC1, Basildon 5/6/1984.

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                    • #11
                      [QUOTE=Gerald Lovell;n9495]. . . and if you missed the beginning of the feature, you just stayed until it played round again.[/QUOTE]

                      I did that many a time and oft !!

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                      • #12
                        "Sunday for one night only " programmes usually had a double bill.

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                        • #13
                          The last one I remember seeing was Roger Moore narrating a documentary about a Grand Prix.

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                          • #14
                            [QUOTE=cassidy;n10358]"Sunday for one night only " programmes usually had a double bill.[/QUOTE]

                            A genuine double bill of something like two Bond films (very common in the seventies and early eighties) would be too long to have anything other than two complete programmes. On Sundays, however, most cinemas did not open until around 4pm, meaning that there was only time for one and a half programmes. Thus the film designated as the feature (i.e. the one that played last) would play twice and the other film only once, so on a Sunday the programme would run:- Ads & Trailers/Feature/Houselights/Support film/Sales/Ad & Trailers/Feature.

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                            • #15
                              Talking about a double bill of Bond films (Post 14), one complicated arrangement I remember from the 1960s was to have a Bond double-bill in the evenings at Rank cinemas preceded by daytime showings of Thunderbird 6 PLUS Pink Panther cartoons. The poster is just a short scroll down on this page here
                              [url]http://www.007magazine.co.uk/london_calling2.htm[/url]

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