Silver date for Charles, the cinema man

Centenary celebrations at Rex Cinema, Elland. Cinema owner Charles Morris.
Centenary celebrations at Rex Cinema, Elland. Cinema owner Charles Morris.

Cinema entrepreneur Charles Morris is celebrating 25 years of bringing the best of the silver screen to Calderdale audiences.

Charles and his business partner Peter Berry rescued the disused Rex Cinema in Elland in 1988 and reopened it for enthusiastic movie-goers.

It originally opened just over 100 years ago but was turned into a bingo hall in the 1960s before shutting its doors in 1988.

Charles said: “I was hooked on cinema as a child and had always wanted to run one of my own. But it was about 30 years before my ambition became a reality. I visited the Rex with my friend Peter Berry one sunny evening in May 1988 and it was in a very run-down state.”

The two mates joined forces to bring the cinema back to life, spending evenings, weekends and holidays on the project for six months. The opening film was ‘Big Business’ with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin.

“Success came gradually. We used to receive anonymous letters from people wanting us to change back to bingo. We continued to distribute our monthly leaflets and then everything happened all of a sudden.

“We appeared on television after our first year and soon afterwards screened ‘Shirley Valentine’ - and we were off. Cinema-going had only just started picking up from an all-time low in 1984 and most people in the film trade thought we were mad.”

The Conn 651 theatre organ was installed for Sunday concerts in 1990 and early resident organists were Belinda Abbiss of Halifax, Harold Lister of Brighouse and eventually Arnold Loxam. Over the years the cinema has been upgraded with Dolby stereo sound installed for the second Harry Potter film and digital projectors recently put in.

The Rex continues to screen a wide variety of films, from current releases to specialised and foreign films, as well as regular family matinees and Thursday morning shows.

Charles now runs a circuit of six cinemas, four in Yorkshire. “Monday is the the busiest day of the week when I compile the programmes for all the cinemas for the following week. The Rex remains my favourite cinema. We have put in a lot of effort over 25 years and seen a lot of changes around us. One highlight was the filming of ‘LA Without a Map’ starring David Tennant on location at the cinema in 1988 and another was the premiere of ‘The Jealous God’ in 2005 with Denise Welsh.

“Running the Rex has been the fulfillment of an ambition and a very happy experience.”