New App celebrates Curzon cinema history

Issue date: 29 March 2012


In its 100th year the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon is embracing digital technology with the introduction of the Curzon Memories App that brings the cinema's colourful past to life. The App will be launched at an afternoon tea event at the Curzon on Saturday 31 March at 16:00.

The App can be downloaded from App Store and Android Market – just type in 'Curzon App'. The QR Codes are also available on the Official Curzon Memories App site http://www.eyefullproductions.co.uk/curzon/qrcodes.html

Designed by Charlotte Crofts, a senior lecturer in Films Studies at UWE Bristol, the App delves into the history of the cinema, both inside and out, using QR codes and GPS technology to trigger memories in precisely the location where they actually happened.

Charlotte says “I have hidden QR codes in specific locations throughout the cinema. By scanning the codes with a smartphone a range of different memories are shared from snogging in the back row and dancing in the aisles to 'Rock Around the Clock', to information about particular cinema projectors from the Curzon Collection of Cinema Technology, including the Powers No.6, dating from 1909 which would have been used in the Bioscopes before purpose-built cinemas came into being.”

Outside the cinema the App shows a little map with flagged red points. “If users stand in the right place their GPS position triggers memories”, including those of Muriel Williams who was inside the cinema when a German bomb exploded outside the front door in 1941 and Julia Elton (daughter of Sir Arthur Elton of Empire Marketing Board's Film Unit, Ministry of Information's Films Division and Shell Film Unit), who remembers enjoying a choc-ice at the Saturday Matinee. You can also see images of how the street used to look, with old photographs superimposed onto present day scenes and hear the dramatised voices of Victor Cox (Ian Lavender, Pike in Dad's Army) and his stepmother Blanche (Anna Farthing), the family who built the cinema, commenting on the history of the building and what it is like today.

You are guided through the app by the usherette Mrs “torchy” Green, played by Jacqui Bressington who works as a Duty Manager in the cinema today. Charlotte says, “My inspiration was a similar App created for the Tower of London, also powered by App Furnace (www.appfurnace.com) that used a real-life guard as one of the characters in the app – when users came across him in real life it was an enjoyable moment”. Jo Reid from Calvium who designed the App Furnace development software says “Charlotte Crofts' award winning project Curzon Memories is an app that provides visitors to the Curzon cinema in Clevedon an augmented reality experience of the stories and memories inside and outside this historic cinema… Charlotte is a film maker who had never touched an app before in her life and she grasped it with ease. When she tested it with volunteers she found that the interface was very well received."

The app also traces how the exhibition of films has changed with the advent of digital technology. One of the QR codes secreted in the cinema is on the screen of the interactive 'Projection Hero' installation, a waist high box containing a mock up of the Curzon Cinema. By scanning the QR code, the viewer can gain control of the cinema using a smartphone to dim the lights, open the curtains and project the movies.

The installation is powered by Arduino circuitry connected via the Internet and was made by Tarim at Media Playgrounds and the box and hand-carved seats were made by Simon Dorgan at Urbi et Orbi.

Charlotte says, “I wanted to celebrate the dying art of the projectionist”. The programme features the evocative Pearl and Dean 'Asteroid' theme tune and insightful interviews with retired projectionist Maurice Thornton, curator of the Curzon Collection, who shares poignant memories and comments about how his job was considered just as much an art form as producing a film and Curzon projectionist Pete Stamp talking about how the new digital projector is making his job obsolete. (Video of interview with Maurice: http://vimeo.com/37568683, Video of Pete Stamp: http://vimeo.com/37570933). The exhibit was trialled throughout December at the Watershed in Bristol where it was used to showcase young people's films in the online advent calendar, Electric December

(Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WCQuFVJCftE).

Charlotte developed the App with funding from the Digital Cultures Research centre and a SPUR grant awarded to young researchers by the University to explore new areas of work that might lead to future research collaborations and enhance degree programmes. Charlotte says, “The grant has enabled me to learn about pervasive media and its uses in connection with bringing history to life. I am going to investigate potential for further heritage projects and use what I have learned to embellish course material for UWE Film programmes.” Charlotte has recently been successful in winning an AHRC Creative Economies Exchange REACT Hub bid for a project on cinema mapping, called City Strata: the Cinemap Layer (http://www.watershed.co.uk/ished/projects/react-hub/).

Hillary Neal, director of the Curzon Board of Trustees says “This Curzon app is an extraordinary project that is absolutely at the cutting edge of new media technology and puts us way ahead in heritage interpretation. Charlotte has gained us a national reputation by her ground breaking work”.

-ENDS-

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