The Mobile Cinema 1947 by Geoff Cronin
In March 1947 I went into partnership 50/50 with my brother David J. Cronin, to form a company, which would be known as “C Mobile Pictures”. The proposition was to bring cinema to all the villages within a ten mile radius of Waterford, where we figured people were starved for entertainment. To this end we purchased the following:
1 Baby Ford Car (Taxed and Insured) £170.0.0
1 Film Projector and Sound Equipment £248.0.0
We booked the Fisherman’s Hall, Dunmore East for one night per week at a rent of 30/-. Our film rental was £8 to £10 per week and we rented on a weekly basis as we intended booking five more halls almost immediately. Our first show was on March 4th 1947. However, when we went to book the other halls, we found that they were not on mains electricity. We ran on one show per two weeks and then we got a second hall in Passage East. We got a third hall in Slieverue, a fourth in Piltown, a fifth in Glenmore and a sixth in Portlaw. The venue in Piltown faded out after our third week there, so we had a circuit of 5 halls left. Half of these halls had no electricity, so we had to buy the following:
One 1000 Watt Generator – Deposit £50.0.0
Delivery and Insurance £14.0.0
1 Van to carry Generator (Net) £195.0.0
Insurance and cost of fitting out the van £34.0.0
In June we were doing fairly well, and we rented an office at 11 Blackfriars, over Fennells Barber Shop. A legal agreement and cost of painting and first week’s rent at £4.6.8, came to £25. About this time we took on a helper at 15/- a week as there was quite a lot of physical work involved in setting up each night and taking down the screen, the lighting where applicable, packing all equipment into the van etc. There was no seating in half the halls, and we had to supply same – mostly long benches – which had to be stored and stacked each night. We ran a full six-night circuit by mid-July and we had opened a joint current account, putting in £13 each – total £26 – into which all takings were lodged.
On August 8th we lost a hall, due to a disagreement with the landlord, and we got another one at the end of that month. Then a bombshell hit us. Government tax on our ticket – we had to buy rolls of taxed tickets – went up from 10% to 25%, and since we could not pass on the increase, we lost heavily and had to borrow £100 from our father to keep going.
At this point, following burning much midnight oil going through the Entertainment Act and its Statutory Instruments, we discovered that if more than 50% of a performance was live entertainment, you were no longer liable for Tax.
Immediately, we hired six pianos and installed them in the various halls and advertised “Cine-Variety” – live performance from 5 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., and film show from 8 p.m. to 10.15 p.m. David and I supplied the live part by playing piano non-stop in relays from 5 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
It was customary for the Tax Inspector to visit our halls and check the numbers on our ticket rolls – and books were kept to enable him to see what had been sold and also spot check the audience to see that everybody had got a ticket.
Well, when he arrived he found us playing to an empty hall, but we were open on time to support our advertisement and we got away with it. Incidentally, after we had come up with that solution, all the big cinemas in the town followed suit, and had scrap bands playing for a period exceeding the film time.
As winter arrived, we hit another big snag – there was no heating in our halls and bit by bit attendances dropped off and we finally closed down the business on the 4th February 1948.
We had drawn approximately £80 each out of the business between July and February, and after repaying our debts and selling off all the equipment – mostly at a loss – we had £150 left, which we split 50/50.
We had worked like slaves while the business was going, as jobs were impossible to find at that time and there was little alternative. I was in digs at the time and was selling off my wardrobe to keep going, and had made up my mind to emigrate.
Then on April 3rd I quite fortuitously got a job with Irish National Insurance Co. as a clerk at the handsome salary of £3.15.5 per week, and I was very glad of that job I can tell you. I stayed with that company for the next 33 years and wound up as General Manager and Director.
©Geoff Cronin 2005
About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017
There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.
Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.
Thank you for dropping in today and you can read the previous chapters of The Colour of Life in this directory: