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International Exhibition's Preferred Trade Journal

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Showcase Cinemas - An Outline History


Established in August 1986 as a UK subsidy to one of America’s most powerful exhibitors, Showcase Cinemas owes its origins ultimately to National Amusements’ founder, Michael Redstone, a former Boston nightclub owner and pioneer also of the ‘drive-in’ movie theatre. By 1967, Redstone's son, the Harvard-educated Sumner M.Redstone - nicknamed ‘the father of the multiplex’ following his official launch of the multiplex cinema - became National’s new president and CEO, developing the corporation into America’s seventh largest exhibitor. Whilst acknowledging National’s earliest cinematic innovations - which have included the ‘reclining rocker’ cinema chair - together with its recent acquisition of, amongst others, Paramount Communications (and, with it, a 49 per cent stake in rival British exhibitor, United Cinemas International); MTV, Nickelodeon, and numerous powerful TV, cable and radio networks organised under the general umbrella of Viacom - the focus of this title will be very much the British Showcase circuit which, with its 197 screens over 15 sites, has today become the “jewel" in the parent company’s exhibition crown. By adopting a rigid ‘multiplex-only’ policy, involving the faithful translation to Britain of National’s decidedly American multiscreen blueprint, the exhibitor, which to this day remains a privately-owned concern has, inside of just ten years, quietly risen to become a UK market leader. Renowned for its reticence, here, for the first time, and with the help of the original US parent, the doors of the prestigious UK exhibitor are thrown open to cinephiles worldwide, offering an insight into the British subsidiary’s unique philosophy and development. And, with the aid of some previously unpublished photographs, Showcase Cinemas - An Outline History takes in also a highly illustrated architectural appraisal of several of the circuit’s luxurious ‘modern-day supers’ - and, in particular, of their façades, foyers, auditoria and projection galleries - designed by internationally-respected architect, the Shrewsbury-based Abbey Hanson Rowe. Written by BFl/National Film Theatre and CTA member, Philip Turner, with the co-operation of past and present National Amusements personnel; sole circuit architect, Abbey Hanson Rowe, and Showcase (UK)’s little-recognised instigator, and subsequent circuit site developer, Andrew Boulton, Showcase Cinemas is limited to Just 3,000 copies worldwide.