Golden age of film before going digital… documentary screening on November 1

What exactly is a film laboratory? In the golden age of British cinema the movies relied on something that many people who have only lived in a world of super fast streaming sites may think of as irrelevant and even alien – film processing.

Now, with technology so advanced you can watch a film on your phone just about anywhere in the world -– the bygone era of film laboratories has drifted into history without much of an afterthought, writes Claudia Lee.

But its place in history and the dedication of those who worked to preserve the magic of cinema – before it was so accessible – are still worth remembering.

Now, the Cinema Museum in Dugard Way, Kennington, is bringing the film laboratory centre stage with a documentary screening on November 1.

The museum will host The Golden Age of British Film Laboratories, opening people’s eyes to the world of film processing.

Processing film at the laboratory Picture: Cinema Museum, The Golden Age of British Film Laboratories

While the spotlight may have dimmed on film laboratories like Deluxe Film Laboratories – better known to many as Rank Film Laboratories – in Denham, Buckinghamshire, their impact on the history of cinema remains undeniable.

The closure of Deluxe in 2014 marked the end of a 78-year legacy, signalling the industry’s shift from traditional film processing to digital technologies.

This transition led to the waning demand for film processing and the eventual closure of these historic institutions.

Processing film at the laboratory Picture: Cinema Museum, The Golden Age of British Film Laboratories

However, the legacy of Deluxe and similar laboratories lives on through the meticulous research of film historians Dr Andrew Dawson, formerly of the University of Greenwich, and Dr Sean P Holmes, from Brunel University London.

In the months leading up to Deluxe’s closure, the scholars documented the intricate processes that unfolded within its walls and conducted interviews with retired lab workers.

Their efforts have preserved the memories and history of an era that defined the artistry and craftsmanship of film processing.

The Golden Age of British Film Laboratories documentary shines a light on the creativity and social vibrancy that thrived within these laboratories.

Processing film at the laboratory Picture: Cinema Museum, The Golden Age of British Film Laboratories

It showcases rare archival footage and offers profound insights through interviews with industry professionals, providing a glimpse into the magic of cinema before it became so two dimensional.

Dr Dawson said: “The documentary is a tribute to the dedicated individuals who worked behind the scenes in film laboratories, preserving the magic of cinema. It’s a testament to their craftsmanship and passion.”

This special screening is made possible with the support of Brunel University, and all proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward the British Entertainment History Project, in an effort to preserve the rich heritage of the entertainment industry.




Picture: Processing film at the laboratory, also left and below left Picture: Cinema Museum, The Golden Age of British Film Laboratories

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