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Birks-historyBirks Cinema Memories

Seating

People have told us how much they enjoyed sharing the double seats at the back of the Birks with dates when they were young. Others have mentioned taking hot water bottles to the last showings of films in the early 1980s.

Do you have memories of the cinema in its heyday? Get in touch, and we’ll post your message here.

The stadium style seating was taken out of the Birks when it was turned into an amusement hall, but two broken seats remained among the rubbish tucked away at the back. We think the original was the green and brown version, and that the mildewy green/blue one was part of a set installed sometime in the 1960s or 1970s. This seemed to be confirmed by a local man who dropped in while we were clearing out; he thought he remembered the second type from the late 1970s.

If you can shed any further light on the seats, please let us know, e.g. with a definite date when the seating was changed.

Memories from Derek Campbell, former projectionist and manager of the Birks Cinema:

"The Birks Cinema, Aberfeldy, opened and the first film '60 Glorious Years' was shown in July 1939. The Birks Cinema Limited was part of a group of cinemas known as Strathmore Picture Houses Ltd. The others were The Regal Cinema in Forfar, The Kings Cinema in Brechin, The Western Cinema in Methil, there was also Quinn's Cinema in Blairgowrie. The registered office for these cinemas was at 25 Wellmeadow, Blairgowrie.

Over the years The Birks had four managers. Manager Mr Alex Walker and his wife ran the cinema from its opening. On Mr Walker's retiral I was promoted from my position as projectionist to manager. For a short period in the mid 1960s a Mr Scott was manager, and for a period before the cinema closed, my father, Mr Alex M. F. Campbell was manager.

I left The Birks for a short period from January 1966 till November 1967 to a position in The Regent Cinema in Chelmsford, Essex, during this time Mr Scott became manager at The Birks. My wife and I married in 1967 and I returned to my position as manager at The Birks the same year. We started our married life in what was at that time the cinema manager's house which was owned by the company and was situated at 29 Dunkeld Street, Aberfeldy.

At The Birks we normally had three changes of programme per week (Mon & Tues) (Wed & Thurs) (Frid & Sat) with a suitable programme for the younger cinema goers at the Saturday afternoon Matinee. The weekday programme would normally consist of a 'B' class feature film followed by a Pathe or Movietone newsreel, which would be followed by the main feature film. There were occasions when some of the 'epic' type films of the time were run for a week (a rental condition of the film companies). At times documentary films, cartoons etc were shown in place of 'B' class films.

Over the years there were three 'time served' projectionists at The Birks, they were Mr William (Billy) Munn, Mr Malcolm Gillies and myself. On leaving Breadalbane Academy I started my working life as a projectionist at The Birks and obtained my Chief Projectionist's Certificate. I was appointed manager on Mr Walker's retiral. There were many people over the period who were employed in the projection room as assistants on a part time basis, as were cashiers, usherettes, and cleaning staff.

As other forms of entertainment became more available in the area, i.e. TV, videos etc, the cinema attendances steadily dropped. It was decided at this point (like many other ailing cinemas) that the game of Bingo should be introduced in an attempt to keep the cinema open. Towards the end of the 1960s we launched The Birks Bingo and Social Club two evenings per week, Tuesdays and Fridays. Although there were well over 3000 members of the Bingo Club (this figure included people on holiday and visitors to the area) only about 100 to 200 on average regularly attended the club. The seating capacity of The Birks was 420.

The Bingo Club continued until the cinema eventually closed. The Birks Cinema was sold and was then used as an amusement arcade. I was approached at this time regarding the sale of the equipment in the projection room and the sound equipment as to what their value might be but I have no knowledge of whether the equipment was actually sold or not.

With regard to the seating. All the original seating in The Birks was upholstered with a self coloured green fabric with black 'moquette' type fabric covering rubber padded arm rests. Towards the front of the hall a few rows had wooden arm rests. The seats to the rear (the upstairs area) had better padding and those seats were fitted with cast metal ashtrays. The seating to the front of this area were fitted with brass ashtrays. The green-brown seats on the computer image are not original. Some seating must have been changed using seating from another cinema. This must have been done some time in the late 1970s."

Do you have memories about the cinema, please contact us and let us know