Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Asylum cinema

One might not think about it, but one of the early uses of cinema film was to provide entertainment at many of the large residential psychiatric facilities -- then often known as "Asylums" -- in the US and the UK. Nowadays, of course, television provides a more wall-to-wall carpet of imagery, but back in the 1920's and '30's, full-size cinemas were a feature at many British asylums. The one shown above was found, still in place and in nearly working order, at the Stone House Asylum in Kent. The best-known patient at this facility was doubtless the poet and composer Ivor Gurney, now recognized as a significant "war poet," and whose compositions are still performed. Whether or not he attended the cinema is not known, but this projector -- a Gaumont Kalee 18 Carbon Arc model -- was successfully removed and restored; you can see a video of it in operation.

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