Gaiety MD Nick Smith on his life in cinema

    Author Zoe Aresti

Following the news that Gaiety Cinema has opened a new lounge space as well as announcing an event programme, below MD, Nick Smith, lifts the lid on his life in cinema.

How did you start working in cinema and what do you love about the industry?

Cinema (and the entertainment business) has always been in my family and pre dates even the company's incorporation in 1933. I actually trained and qualified as a chartered surveyor and town planner. These days I'm running our business and bingo interests, but my first love has always been the cinema.

What’s unique about the Gaiety?

It was built in 1922 (one of three in the town and the only one still standing today). We reopened the Gaiety last October after 12 years. When I first took over as MD two years ago and walked in I was expecting to see a sad and rundown old cinema, but it had been mothballed.

What sort of work has been involved in getting the place back to its best?

Some TLC, a fabulous refurbishment of the original seats, a new projector, sound system and a discovery that the lino on the stairs hidden under 80 years of black footsteps was actually red. But lots of man hours later and we were able to reopen the doors (that's a very simplistic summary, of course).

We've now opened out a big old store area to create what is a cafe bar seating area, in a style that wouldn't look out of place in Manchester's Northern Quarter. A thousand plus likes on our Facebook page in the first 24 hours seems to say we've done something right.

And what about the events and screenings you now offer? Tell us about that…

We've shown over 75 different films in the first nine months - that's not bad for just a single-screen cinema. Blockbusters and mainstream to classics; Brief Encounter, Dr Zhivago, Pulp Fiction… Some we pick, some our customers vote for. Our Christmas Polar Express special sold out in less than a day.

What film are you most looking forward to in 2016?

I have to say the most recent one was The Revenant. Okay, it's been and gone, but big screen, big film shots - that film was made to be shown in cinemas like the Gaiety. I do like big one-off movies - The Deer Hunter, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Django Unchained, Lawrence of Arabia.

What excites you most about the future of the cinema industry?

No matter how big they make televisions you cannot beat the experience of the big cinema screen. When we reopened the Gaiety, watching our audience cling to their seats while Star Wars The Force Awakens rumbled all around them was just amazing (there’s no harm in making the building shake for the right occasion).

What’s your favourite film of all time?

If - a strange fascination of perhaps how I wanted my school days to be. Close second is The Ruling Class - Peter O'Toole playing what he was always best at: someone eccentric.

What do you foresee as being your biggest challenge in 2016?

Continuing to persuade customers that cinema tickets really are great value for a night out.

What do you think are some of the most iconic cinema ads and why?

The Orange Wednesdays ones were always amusing and then Kevin Bacon for EE– he’s probably more well-known for his cinema ads than all the movies and TV series he's ever made now. I'm sure Meerkat Movies will become as equally iconic.

What three things do you most enjoy doing in your free time?

Following Fulham Football Club, which is hard when home games are a 650-mile round trip, but I had some great trips around Europe in the Europa Cup days.

Motorbikes - my wife Karen and I rode Route 66 five years ago and it was epic (bar the very unfortunate tornado in the middle).

Finally, avoiding climbing mountains in the Lake District.