Trak Cinema’s final night, Saturday, January 2, 2021
“The little cinema with the big programmes” sadly called it a day, the other day. (Small independent operators, particularly in the provinces, have done it tough, what with the larger chains, streaming services and the plague). The final screening was in Cinema 1, the Trak’s original theatre, which opened on 26 December 1975 with Jeremy and Where the Lilies Bloom.
On closing night, the Trak gave the large gathering a slight, quiet, but very appropriate film, The Smallest Show on Earth (1957). A young couple, Matt and Jean (played by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, not the most nuanced actors about) visit Sloughborough to inspect the Bijou Kinema (nicknamed “the flea pit”) that Matt inherits from a late forgotten uncle.
Despite its Belle Époque style, it’s now a sorry sight, and run by a sorry lot: Mrs. Fazackalee (Margaret Rutherford), the cashier and bookkeeper; Mr. Quill (Peter Sellers), the dipso projectionist; and Old Tom (Bernard Miles), the janitor (who pines for a commissionaire’s uniform like the one worn by the Grand Cinema nearby). The story centres on the couples’ attempts to run the show until they can sell at best to the rival cinema’s owners, who want to level the Bijou to put up a parking lot. Like the Bijou, the film is showing its age, but it is still rather sweet and amusing. A particularly moving moment (see main image) involves the youngsters returning late from dinner with their solicitor, to find the 3 employees staging a reverent and private screening of an old silent film, complete with piano accompaniment courtesy of Mrs. Fazackalee.