The Picture House, Uckfield

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The Picture House celebrates its 100th Birthday

On the 15th December 2016 The Picture House, Uckfield, celebrated entertaining people continuously for 100 years.

The Picture House officially opened as a Garrison Theatre on 15th December 1916. It had struggled to get a cinematic license despite being a purpose-built cinema. The local magistrate owned Foresters Hall which acted as Uckfield’s cinema, so it wasn’t surprising that it was refused a license! The Picture House would have entertained the troops with both variety and film during this time.

Eventually in August 1920 The Picture House opened to the public after the then current owner of The Foresters Hall (Mr Proctor) took over The Picture House. It opened with The Eternal City on Monday, 16th August. The Picture House has remained a full-time cinema ever since.

Picture House, Uckfield, circa 1947

Proctor sold his lease to William Harper around 1923. The final silent movie was a free Mother and Baby presentation on behalf of Nestlé in July 1931 and the first talkie was Atlantic, which opened on Monday, 27th July, 1931. This film was originally made as Titanic and followed the story of the Titanic throughout with the exception that the sinking scene was cut and the boat in the film renamed Atlantic. The changes occurred because of a potential law suit and so not to cause offense to survivors of the Titanic.

A Mr PV Reynolds took over in 1936 and he saw the installation of CinemaScope. Mr Reynolds died in mid-November 1963. They say that everyone can remember where they were when they heard the news of Kennedy’s assassination. In the case of Roy Markwick, he was viewing the Picture House with the view of taking over its lease. Roy Markwick officially took over on 17th February, 1964, and the Picture House has remained in the Markwick family ever since.

Uckfield Picture House, Roy Markwick with Westtrex projectors
November 1981

In January 1979, the single screen closed for twinning after a screening of Death Wish. The new Screen Two opened for business on 19th March, 1979 with Every Which Way But Loose. Sadly Roy Markwick passed away in 1994 on his 65th birthday and his son Kevin who had literally grown up in the cinema took over. He built a third screen which opened on 11th February, 2000, with The Beach.

In 2010 the cinema went fully digital in all screens and showed the first Arts on Screen Live content. The world could literally come to Uckfield including MET Opera from New York and Boshoi Ballet from Moscow. This created a whole new audience for the cinema. In 2014 The Picture House saw a total refurbishment throughout and also saw the opening of the Picture House Restaurant opposite the cinema.

Picture House, Uckfield, 2016

The Picture House Cinema and Restaurant is a true family affair. Kevin’s wife Tansy, a former home economics teacher, runs the restaurant and is responsible for its creative and delicious menu along with head chef Barry Ashford.

Many of the one-off film screenings are accompanied by a live Q&A either via satellite or by the director in person. The Picture House has a Membership Scheme which rewards the loyalty of the customers. It has special screenings such as Saturday Morning Movies and Baby Friendly screenings. The refurbishment has brought the cinema into the 21st century and this goes further than just the environment, which includes many of Kevin’s original film posters that have been collected for many years adorning both the cinema and restaurant walls.

Highlights of films coming to the cinema in February are Anna Karenina from Stage Russia, the RSC performing The Tempest, and I, Claude Monet – an Exhibition On Screen.

The restaurant across the road from the cinema has a chic yet slight bohemian feel, as restaurants ought to be. Acquiring the restaurant has given a whole new dimension to the business, being able to provide a complete night out including a special Movie Meal Deal plus special film based events such as ‘Soundscapes’ which will be performed by the Brighton Film Quartet on 3rd May, a live concert of sheer sound and visual escapism.

Brighton Film Quartet

The Picture House has earned the label ‘award-winning’, here’s why: 2015: awarded ‘Best Independent Cinema in Europe’ by the Event Cinema Association. 2016: Highly Commended at The Screen Awards 2016, also awarded ‘Restaurant, Hospitality and Leisure Award’ at The Uckfield Business Awards 2016.

Visit www.picturehouseuckfield.com for full information about the cinema and restaurant.

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