Last Saturday Anthony and I went to see Meet Me in St Louis at the Plaza in Stockport.
It’s a cinema which first opened in 1932, in the 1960’s it became a bingo hall until 1998 and then in 2005 refurbishment began under the influence of the Plaza Trust to restore the cinema to its former art deco glory.
The Plaza is situated in the centre of Stockport and ever since we moved nearby (about a twenty minute walk away) I have been intrigued by the façade of the building, which is lit up in red and green neon at night time. I got googling and learnt they show a load of old films, are a venue for performances and have a tea room on the top floor (I hear their afternoon teas are something to rave about and can’t wait to sample them some time in the future).
When I learnt that Meet Me in St Louis was showing I decided it was time we experienced the cinema for ourselves.
We arrived at the cinema to a double bill of Tom and Jerry, much better than trailers! Then there was a pause whilst the organist played tunes from the film we were about to watch and a lady sold ice cream at the front. I took this opportunity to take in the surroundings, the changing lights, the beautiful curtains covering the screen, all the ornate wall decorations and stained glass windows. It was quite something.
The film began and I loved it. I had only seen it once before so was in the nice position of knowing I would enjoy it but not being quite sure of the plot. I do enjoy a good musical, and, as with most old films, I loved the costumes and make up (especially the strange mixture of 1940’s does the 1900’s). The story centres around the Smith family who live in … you guessed it… St Louis. There’s romance and comedy and almost-moving-to-New-York-but-not-at-the-last-second. My favourite parts were those that focused on the younger Smith sisters, especially the Halloween scenes in which the children of the neighbourhood make a giant bonfire in the street and knock on doors to throw flour in people’s faces and shout ‘I HATE YOU’. So funny.
Now, once the film finished a strange thing occurred. The screen cut to black and a giant Union Jack appeared, the National Anthem rang out and then a photograph of the Queen’s face filled the screen. The (largely retired) audience stood as a mark of respect and I felt incredibly awkward for reasons I can’t really untangle into sensible points… When I got home I did some research into this and apparently all films used to finish with the National Anthem back in The Plaza’s heyday. It just felt weird from a modern perspective, I think there’s a reason that today’s blockbusters don’t close with God Save the Queen.
All in all, I had a good time. The Plaza is gorgeous outside and in and it really felt like a special occasion to see an old film on the big screen in such a wonderful setting.
I can’t wait to go back again soon.