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The truth about royal film premieres in Leicester Square UK News

This week, I’m not taking you to the Yellow Brick Road, but to the red carpet of royal film premieres. These occasions have been in Leicester Square cinemas since the 1940s, although they seem to get far less attention these days.

I started attending in the 1980s, but before you think it was a great giveaway, I have to point out that as these events are for charity, I have always paid for my place. In the 1990s, the cost of a balcony seat a few rows behind Princess Di, Her Majesty The Queen or anyone representing the Royal Family would cost £250 from memory. Moreover, to be entitled to such places, you were obliged to attend each year, regardless of the horror of the film chosen.

I’ve sat through a few stinkers but my favorite remains Titanicwhich was the only one I attended that received a standing ovation – much to the delight of the stars in attendance.

Read more: The best movie made about the Titanic

Titanic on the way to the Oscars?

One movie that I think got nothing but polite applause is the Star Wars movie. The Phantom Menace. Due to the thousands of fans gathered my driver had to drop off my friend Sean and myself outside a pub just outside the square. It was confusing to have to walk along the hallway created, so I suggested timing it right. After all, who wants thousands of people staring at you, thinking who the hell is that bald old man? So I timed our long walk so that we were a few steps behind Robbie Williams, and naturally everyone was watching him, which was great.

The only problem with the Odeon was that you had to descend the stairs from the balcony on your way out just as the other customers were leaving the stalls and naturally looking to spot the stars. In front of us was Mark Hamill and I was like ‘please don’t stop at the bottom of the stairs to sign autographs’ because I knew what was coming. It became a scrum and the rest of us couldn’t get through, hence the wait time for our taxi increased somewhat, but again, it was fun.

Leicester Square.  Photo: Pixabay

Leicester Square. Photo: Pixabay

Richard Todd told me he was invited to attend the premiere of his own movie The pressed heart, having been nominated for an Oscar. Again, there were thousands of fans outside. He was under contract with Elstree Studios and was later “amused” to discover that the studio was paying him less than his film’s lighting cameraman.

Cliff Richard told me he also had a problem with the crowds when he was invited to the premiere of one of his musicals made at Elstree. At that time, cars deposited the stars in front of the Odéon. On this occasion, the police were so concerned about crowd control that they signaled their car never to come!

The last preview I attended at the Odeon, where cars were still allowed to let us down, was for the movie Chaplin. The problem was that the cars came back out of order to pick you up at the end of the movie, but still with a large crowd outside. A guy was standing outside with a loudspeaker saying “car for Joan Collins”, “car for Rod Stewart”, etc. Naturally, they received great applause. I was waiting in the lobby and saw David Attenborough and asked him if he enjoyed it. He replied with a smile “I would rather be in the jungle”. Then the voice sounded “car for Paul Welsh” and silence fell on the crowd. It put me back in my place. Until we meet again, take care.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree studios

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This notice was published: 2022-05-08 17:00:00

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