The Delmar Cinema, Durweston has closed its doors for the last time today, ending an eighty-one year uninterrupted run. Even a hit from a stray bomb in 1941 [the Junkers was aiming for the industrially strategic target of Corfe Mullen but, like a nervous suitor meeting his future father-in-law for the first time, accidentally let one go] did not stop the show: the cinema operated for four months as an open-air walk-in showing continuous repeats of a damaged and thus shortened version of the David Lean wartime classic rapidly branded Even Briefer Encounter*. Once the pride of the Dorset arthouse cinemas circuits, it rostered the latest Hollywood releases alongside home-grown movies from the Dorset studios and was once named Best Cinema in Durweston at a time when competition for that title was more intense than it is today.
* another urban myth. Brief Encounter was not issued to cinemas until 1945 [Ed]
Opened in 1928 it rapidly became the place to which families gravitated for matinées and early evening showings and young couples repaired when more suitable alternatives were unavailable. It was the first cinema in Dorset to install a widescreen, air-conditioning and fitted automated anti- nit disinfectant spray; the first to sell Pendelton's twicers, the first to offer three for two on slow Tuesdays and the last to go digital. The last of these - a sign of under-capitalisation and an ageing management team - was almost certainly the fatal blow as analogue material became harder to source and more expensive to hire. It was once famously visited by a relaxed Professor Thrupiece who queued amongst ordinary folk to see Ivy Eff's Born Three, the story of the first Stinsford test-tube triplets.
Owners and managers for the last 40 years Fred and Elsie Philmstock were tearful as they closed the doors for the last time today, after thanking the three remaining customers who attended a valedictory performance of Mrs Mineva, the costs of the screening of which they had raised themselves by special subscription. An equally sad Mable Loosend - who has been a regular since 1953 and saw the Dorset premiere of The Sound of Brian in 1957* - said it was the end of an era. "It's the end of an era", she said sadly.
* A memorable feat since as every cinema-goer knows, the film never finished production and so was never released. Ms Loosend may be confused. The stage musical version opened in 1957 at the Sutton Poyntz Grand Theatre. She may possibly have attended that**.
** Let's get this right. The 1957 Sutton Poyntz Grand Theatre production was also cancelled and the show was never produced. Three days before the production was due to open, star Christopher Plumb-Tomato broke his ankle on a copy of Macbeth thoughtlessly left on the backstage stairs of the Paladium, Compton Valance by an ingenue with anger-management issues. he Scottish play had struck again. TSee the full story HERE.
A brief campaign to save the historic venue was mounted by the Sydling St Nicholas Sun in the summer of 2019, but was quickly abandoned after editor Ron Nasty realised no-one was interested and the campaign had not boosted circulation.
So as the building is repurposed and more than eighty years-worth of memorabilia is dispersed spare a thought for Fred and Elsie Philmstock who at the age of 94 and 95 respectively face a mid-career crisis with little idea what they will turn their hands to next. Suggestions on a postcard please to Fred and Elsie Philmstock Career Advice c/o Maureen Philmstock, The Projection House, Long Bredy. Charitable donations also welcome - more so than condolences and good wishes.