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U3A members' talk: Decadent London was where cinema was born - Ian Christie

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Tour some of the key London sites where cinema took shape - which owed more to London's music halls than the Lumiere brothers

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Forget the Lumiere brothers’ much-vaunted Paris screenings of their polite ‘views’ in December 1895 – which they didn’t even bother to attend. What would become cinema, as generally understood, owed more to the sophisticated variety of London’s music halls. It was in these that the varied programmes devised by Robert Paul during 1896 attracted growing audiences. It was from Paul that the stalwarts of early French cinema, Méliès and Pathé, bought their equipment and took inspiration.

Starting with Leicester Square’s great halls, the Alhambra and the Empire, this talk will tour some of the key sites where cinema took shape. We’ll visit nearby ‘Flicker Alley’, where the trade was first based, and the Palace and Scala theatres, where Charles Urban showed colour film with huge success before 1914, finishing with the origins of British cinema’s longstanding home, Wardour Street.

Ian Christie is a film and media historian, a curator and broadcaster, and currently a professor at Birkbeck, University of London, and visiting professor at Gresham College https://www.gresham.ac.uk/professors-and-speakers/professor-ian-christie/.

His book on Robert Paul, our local Muswell Hill pioneer and superstar, won the US Theatre Library Association award in 2020. https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/R/bo24296232.html.

He has been guiding tours of central London film history sites for students and visitors over some years, and will be offering a version of these online for the first time. For background to the tour see https://www.rimbaudverlaine.org/en/news/decadent-london-and-origins-cinema/

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