Director: Alex Ayre
Reviewer: Susan England
We received a free ticket to view this film, in exchange for an honest review.
Step inside the Tyneside Cinema and one would be forgiven for dreaming of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. Sumptuous art deco fixtures and fittings, billowy velvet crimson curtains protecting the film screen and a bar befitting Jay Gatsby himself, the Tyneside Cinema is a jewel in Newcastle city centre.
As in much of this world, this precious cinema has been saved from destruction several times during her 81 year history. The Dream Palace is both a love letter to the Tyneside and a celebration of cinema itself. Film fan after film fan describe their favourite cinema experiences, each eagerly sharing cherished memories. Newcastle residents past and present, young and old, native Geordies as well as those have moved there from other parts of the UK as well as abroad explain what makes the Tyneside so special to them.
Made possible with Heritage Lottery funding, The Dream Palace celebrates various heroes of this special cinema, beginning with visionary Dixon Scott (uncle of Ridley Scott) opening the cinema (then called the News Cinema) in 1930. Scott realised cinema shouldn’t only be for the wealthy, but should also be available to the masses and can also play a part in education of the public on current affairs. At the time, news reels were a new technology and the only way for members of the public to actually see what was happening in the world. Scott believed in this new technology and set about bringing it to Newcastle area residents. Today, Tyneside Cinema is the only remaining cinema in the UK to have shown news reels.
Other visionaries who helped save the Tyneside include late radical leftie Nina Hibben, Director of the Tyneside from 1976-79. Director Ken Loach credits Nina Hibben and Guardian Film Critic Derek Malcolm as saving his career by championing his first film Kes.
Former Director Shelia Whitaker 1979-84 helped to bring lesbian and gay cinema to Tyneside. Various lesbian and gay Tyneside fans readily admit that in a considerably less tolerant time, the Tyneside was one of the few places they felt accepted.
During a time when Tyneside was haemorrhaging funds, director Peter Packer 1986-92 put the cinema on financially viable track, although redundancies and other unpopular decisions had to be made. Packer also started the first Queer Film Focus, which later developed into the Flare Festival.
In 2006, a major rejuvenation of this special cinema helped to restore her former glory. The Tyneside continues to champion cinema for all, offering training to young people who would not otherwise be able to fund such training. She also offers training and educational sessions to area residents.
At the end of The Dream Palace, I felt not only more educated about cinema in general, but I also developed a deeper appreciation for this jewel of a cinema. The Dream Palace will serve as a cherished historical document for residents of the Newcastle area as well as UK historians for years to come.