Majestic Memories – Looking Back at my Childhood Cinemas

When I was quite young, still living with my parents, a trip to the cinema was a near mythical experience. In the sticks, crap transport links, and not a lot of money, meant that it was a very special occasion if you went to the pictures. And we were slap bang in the middle of the Bermuda triangle. Well, if you were to draw a line from Hull, Grimsby and scunthorpe, we were stuck in the centre of the world’s worst summoning circle. Each one of these had a great cinema, that I’ve got nothing but fond memories of. Hull had the massive UCI. It was incredible and every now and then, I got to grace the gargantuan multiplex, and each time was a spiritual experience. The smell of the popcorn instantly reminding me of this wonderful new world I was about to enter. But I wasn’t allowed any. If I wanted popcorn it was a bag of toffee butterkist from the spar shop. The small selection of arcade games I would pretend to play but never had any money for was awesome and watching the bigger boys play air hockey was mesmerising (although I may be mistaking the latter form the Megabowl next door, it was over 20 years since I last went). But the real treat was waiting for me behind the doors with the film name and bbfc rating above them, I was about to enter nirvana.

I could probably tell you all the films I ever saw at this holy temple. Including the first complete series I would see at the cinema for many years to come. In fact I don’t think I saw a full series of films on the big screen until The Hangover. But my first was the awesome foursome, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I saw 1-3 with my good friend Barry. Well, actually I missed out on seeing 2 with him because I was out on my bike and got back too late. I literally saw them drive past as I got home. I was fucking distraught. But my dad, in a moment of heroism which went against the grain, as normally he didn’t take any of our shit, saved the day. You make your bed, you lie in it. But this time was different. He took me to the next showing. I still got to see Secret of the Ooze that day, and not only that, he bought me a drink with one of the branded reusable cups. Turtles, obvs. I don’t remember a time my father was more heroic than that. He’s saved kids from an angry swarm of wasps, he’s helped me home when I’ve been stranded, he raised me on his own for a good few years, but everything pales in significance to the time he took me to see Turtles 2, despite it being my own dumbass fault I missed my ride in the first place.

Other films I have seen there were usually for my birthday. If ever I had the choice, the pictures won, hands down. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and Stay Tuned were both movies of choice, and while the latter was pretty weird, I absolutely loved them. However. I remember the one and only time I did not want to go to this shrine of all things film. It was Christmas time and my step mum was taking us to the pictures. I’m sure there were other films out at the time, but I remember Tomorrow Never Dies being on and desperately wanting to see that over what I was about to be subjected to. It was 1997 and Spice World had taken over. I’d have been happy to stay at home and play Final Fantasy on my new playstation I just got for Christmas. But it was a family outing. Spice World it was, and with that, my final memory of the UCI. A place I still remember as a gargantuan mecca to this wonderful medium. Unfortunately the UCI no longer exists as it was apparently sinking. It made way for another retail park.

Grimsby played host to another picture house I remember fondly. I think it’s been through a few name changes over the years, but I remember it being a Canon (as in the notorious production company) branded cinema at one point, and then changed its name to the ABC. I believe my first visit may have been to see either Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or Masters of the Universe. I remember being on the front row for MotU. And I remember being extremely disappointed. Why was it not on Eternia? And where the hell was Battle Cat? And why was Beastman so scary?

My memories of the cinemas layout are hazy at best, despite having seen a few films there over the years, although my last visit was around 1998. I’m pretty sure they had merch there too as I remember coming away with a Gwildor toy. I think that was the name of the weird dude in Masters of the Universe that liked fried chicken. Although I remember having a bit of buyer’s remorse because I could’ve got they bad ass looking guy with the swords and the eyepatch. I also remember going to see Ghostbusters 2 there, coming back from the loo and seeing Vigo’s massive face in the screen has stuck with me to this day. But I wasn’t so lucky for Honey I Shrunk the kids. The queue was right down the street and it sold out right before we got to the door. That was the chance you took with a small picture house like that. It only had 3 screens. I recall its foyer being quite narrow, but there were stairs that branched up, like the entrance to a mansion, taking you to the screens. I’m pretty sure the main screen was the old Cinema-Scope style screens that curved inwards.

Other titans of cinema I’ve enjoyed there are Street Fighter (I got in to a 12, despite only being 11 and I thought I was the dogs bollocks that day. Although looking back, how this wasn’t a PG is beyond me), which I saw with my cousins and quite enjoyed. As did the OAP’s sat by us. I still enjoy Street Fighter. It’s a guilty pleasure that I can’t help but watch if I ever see it on TV. The Flintstones, Casper and Armageddon are a few others I remember seeing, the latter in particular as I ploughed through four packets of Chewits. But the best film I ever saw there was The Empire Strikes Back, when it was re-released in the special edition format in the late 90’s. I think it was the Easter holidays and I had to take my little brother on the train to see it. We wanted to see Star Wars but it had finished its run by that point I believe, so we went to see the sequel instead. I’d seen them all before but only on TV over the years so wasn’t totally au fai with everything, as this was back in the day where the home releases of Star Wars were rare as rocking horse shit and the Internet was still only used for email and looking at porn. I’d love to be able to go back and look around this cinema back in the late 80’s, when I went to see the He Man movie, just to see if it’s anything like I actually remember. Unfortunately, a memory it will remain. There was an attempt to revive it some ten years ago, after it became a brutalist eyesore under the Odeon banner, but because of extensive repair and maintenance requirements it was left to decay. Since then it was converted in to an indoor war games arena for paintball etc.

Finally, there’s the Majestic. Sounds mysterious and magical right? Well, it turns out it was in Scunny, so it was majestic in name only. However I was unaware of its existence until the summer of 1993. That’s right, I first saw Jurassic Park as a loser 9 year old in Scunthorpe. And we had to get a train and then a bus to get there. It felt like an endless voyage, but the reward was worth it. Seeing that guy get eaten when he was on the toilet was worth the turmoil. If memory serves, there were not many screens at the majestic. I think they had a large screen and then a few smaller ones. I didn’t frequent this picture house as often as the others and I remember it being very small, but it was pretty decent. As well as Spielberg’s classic, I saw Toy Story there for my friends birthday, although I was all for seeing Hackers. It was rated 12 and we were finally old enough to get in to these films. Luckily, common sense prevailed and we saw Pixar’s maiden big screen adventure, hopped up on jolly ranchers from Scunny market. There was also The Truman Show, and Dude, Where’s my Car?, the latter of which was for my 17th birthday, and I dragged my friends to see it because it had Kelso from That 70’s Show in it. I think we tried to get booze from Aldi afterwards. I was not successful. That was the last film I watched at the independent cinemas in my area before I relocated. Not long after, the likes of Vue and Odeon took over and the rest is history. In a fate similar to most buildings like this nowadays, the majestic was torn down to make way for some flats.

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