Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

International Museum Day, 18 May - A History of Cinema in Kronological Order: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

International Museum Day, 18 May - A History of Cinema in Kronological Order: Resources

Article excerpt

Newcastle's Tyneside Cinema brings its art-house past to life by challenging pupils to save the world. Adi Bloom reports.

The children stand under a sepia-tinted portrait of a middle-aged man. He is dressed in trilby and cravat; behind round glasses, his eyes gaze dreamily into the distance. The children look slightly bored.

Year 5 pupils from Hotspur Primary School in Newcastle- upon-Tyne are touring Tyneside Cinema, a 75-year-old architectural confection of mock- Mughal and Art Deco. They have seen a display cabinet housing a collection of early movie cameras, with nearby screens displaying black-and-white footage. The man under whose portrait they now stand is Dixon Scott, ardent Orientalist, founder of the cinema and great-uncle of film director Sir Ridley Scott.

They traipse into the main auditorium to watch some newsreels from the cinema's archive, fidgeting as they see footage of a young Queen Elizabeth II smiling determinedly as she is driven through the newly opened Tyne tunnel.

Then, suddenly, the picture goes fuzzy. A young woman, bound and gagged, appears on screen, looking out at the audience in terror. Behind her is a man in a top hat and frock coat. His face is unusually pale; when he speaks, it is with a Transylvanian accent. The children perk up noticeably: this is not what they were expecting.

The Transylvanian man, it transpires, is called Kronos. Through the power of time-travel and general evilness, he has taken over the Tyneside Cinema. In order to save the world and, more specifically, the moving- picture medium, the Newcastle pupils must track down and photograph all evidence that the cinema is being transformed into a Kronoplex. The act of photographing Kronos's takeover, they are told, will help to reverse it.

This time, as the children pound the cinema's passageways, it is with new enthusiasm.

"So often, primary-school kids get dragged along for a school trip and learn about a curriculum topic," says Holli McGuire, cinema projects manager at the venue. "I wanted something that made our heritage engaging for this age group."

Time Machine, the tale of Kronos and his efforts at cinematic domination, provides "a compelling narrative that brings an emotional hook for children to buy into," she says.

"There! There! There!" a Hotspur pupil says, jumping up and down. "Is that a hat?" And, indeed, alongside the old cinema cameras in the display case, rests Kronos's top hat. Opposite, an art-house film poster has been replaced with one for The Sound of Kronos. "Hear him sing! See him dance! Watch him juggle nuns!" it reads.

In the snack bar, an attendant leans nonchalantly in the entrance to the kitchen. His T-shirt is emblazoned with the logo "Kronoplex". By the sink behind him is a bottle of Kronoclean washing-up liquid. "How did he do it so fast?" a boy asks breathlessly.

And where once the children stood beneath the portrait of Dixon Scott, there is now a sepia print of Kronos, dressed in trilby and cravat. "We spent ages getting the right tone of sepia," says Ian Fenton, a television scriptwriter whose writing credits include Byker Grove and Emmerdale, and who conceived the Time Machine project. "There's a lot of detail in there."

It is, he says, "the single most satisfying creative work I've done. It's because of the uniqueness of it. I'm a storyteller and the story here is spread out in all these different places, with the children as part of the story. …

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