Starburst Memories: The Projection Room – The Hitchcock Season (1999)

Before Dirk Malcolm’s World of Film there was The Projection Room, Bolton School’s Film Society. There had been film societies at the school in the past, but this incarnation was formed in the mid-nineties as a means of showcasing its splendid, new Arts Centre to the wider community. Over a few years, the society attracted an eclectic bunch of regulars, with different motives for being  member:

the Arts centre management believed that the venue could offer a viable alternative to the multiplex cinemas with the school adding a rarified air to proceedings; Hogwarts with Choc Ices.

– people who liked the school attended stuff that they wanted to see, to show their support for the cause.

– a vocal camp loved the engineering of the 16mm ciniprojector and delighted in the clatter and inconvenience of the reel changes. They invented additional bits and pieces for the machine so that it eventually looked like a contraption from THE WRONG TROUSERS.

– the society was also about appreciating film, in all its forms, and there was another group of members who would encourage debate and provide introductions to the films.

It was the latter group that had conducted a putsch in 1999 to seize control of the programming to create a themed season to celebrate Hitchcock’s centenary.

The choice of films for previous seasons had always been a messy business. It was done democratically – a system that is unlikely to catch on – there was a genuine risk that the season would include a mix bag of THE CAT FROM OUT OF SPACE and public information films about the rail network.

Sanity eventually prevailed, and The Hitchcock season was born, to mark his centenary. It would have been impossible for us to select films that reflected his entire career, but the films were selected carefully to balance his darkly comic output (THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955)) his ‘knowingly auteur’ (THE BIRDS(1963)) his classic, British thrillers (39 STEPS(1935)) and his lurid, schlock horrors (FRENZY(1972)). The season was bolstered by additional, more informal meetings, which included video showings of LIFEBOAT and STRANGERS ON THE TRAIN. The use of a video didn’t go down well with the ‘Projector fanciers’, but the additional meetings allowed chat and reflection in a more intimate setting. I could never understand their complaints. Their passion for the mechanism seemed to me like members of a dining club who were in it for the cutlery.

Although the season was a relative success, the society became no longer sustainable as a loss leader, so folded in 2000.

It was a short-lived, but has formed friendships that could last a life-time.

4 responses to “Starburst Memories: The Projection Room – The Hitchcock Season (1999)

  1. A big well done to all concerned, if it hadn’t been for Duncan trying to make money on that job lot of choc ices he had got in, maybe the Film society would never have come into being. Although Dave’s opinion on The Manic Street Preachers put some people off coming! “There is something for everyone on that album!” – his usual response to the latest Manic’s album. I can’t remember which film I introduced, I think it was The 39 Steps, the print didn’t turn up from Filmbank and Wilf had to nip home for his copy! I think it was the only night we made any money as it was a free film! Well done Wilf and Wilf Jnr!

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