Vintage Mobile Cinema

[Image: The Vintage Mobile Cinema].

This is great: a fully restored mobile cinema that’s been traveling the rural roads of Devon, England, since the beginning of the summer.

“A rare 1967 mobile cinema is being restored in North Devon,” the North Devon Gazette reported last year, “and will visit schools and communities across the county next year, showing historic films unseen for many years, including old footage of the area.”

[Image: One of the originally commissioned vans].

Seven of these vans were originally commissioned by the UK’s Ministry of Technology; this one, a Bedford SB3, “is the only one of the original mobile cinemas to have survived. It was rescued by a previous owner after sitting in a field for 14 years.”

The ensuing restoration was performed by local Devonian Oliver Halls and a group of his friends.

[Images: Mobile cinemas commissioned by the UK Ministry of Technology].

If you’re in England now and hoping to check out a screening, you’ll find a schedule here, along with brief descriptions of some of the featured films.

It should not be a surprise to learn that the van has also got a Facebook page.

[Images: The Vintage Mobile Cinema].

The interior itself is the cinema, meanwhile; you actually sit inside the van and watch films from the comfort of one of its 22 upholstered seats. The equipment, as listed by the blog Home Cinema Choice, includes:

Onkyo TX-NR807 receiver
Pioneer BDP-320 Blu-ray player
Mordaunt Short Aviano 6 floorstander speakers
Mordaunt Short Alumni 9 subwoofer speaker
Mordaunt Short Alumni 5 center speaker
Mordaunt Short Alumni 3 surround speakers (x4)
Epson EH-TW3500 LCD projector

The seats themselves date from the 1930s.

[Image: Inside the Vintage Mobile Cinema].

As you can see on the van’s Facebook page, the renovation process was both extensive and very impressive—the vehicle went from a genuine wreck to road-ready. It took more than just a quick coat of paint.

[Images: The van, awaiting renovation].

Here are some shots of other vans from the original commission, as archived by the Vintage Mobile Cinema project. These have all since disappeared, presumably sold and scrapped, pushing the whole lineage nearly to extinction. Or perhaps another one will pop up someday, found in an old barn somewhere out in Cornwall.

[Images: Vintage photos of the original cinema van series].

It’s such a cool vehicle, and an amazing project: bringing films to places where public cinema might not normally reach.

Even cooler, if you’re a filmmaker, you can actually see your work screened inside this thing:

We are looking for independent film-makers work at the moment, to screen aboard the Vintage Mobile Cinema as we tour different events across the country. This is an opportunity for film-makers to have their work screened in a unique environment; a one-of-a-kind 1967 Mobile Cinema, the last survivor from a fleet of seven. The vehicle is completely unique, featuring a retro-futuristic perspex dome above the cab, and it causes heads to turn whereever it goes!

While the call-for-films specifically referred to a festival that occurred at the end of August, it seems you still have a chance; there’s contact info, in case you want to inquire.

[Image: Graphics for the cinema van].

All in all, the renovation looks superb and this particular example of flexible infrastructure—the cinema gone mobile—is an inspiring one. Perhaps this might even qualify as a soft system, in the context of Bracket 2.

8 thoughts on “Vintage Mobile Cinema”

  1. I've been reading BLDG|BLOG for a long time now, and still, all I can say is 'Wow.' &… where's the popcorn?

  2. This is amazing, and I bet there were cool uniforms that went along with "operating" this fine apparatus. The cigarette smoke must have been pretty brutal though.

  3. Hahahah that's so awesome. I so want to just drive one of those around, get tired, then crawl into the back and watch a movie. I'm jealous. 🙂

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