Memories of Nottingham's cinemas - first dates, pranks, horror and a ghost in the basement

Whether it was going on a date, an outing with a gang of friends or working as an usherette, everyone has a favourite memory of Nottingham's cinemas. The city centre alone used to have more than a dozen cinemas, including the Odeon in Angel Row, the ABC in Chapel Bar and the Elite in Upper Parliament Street, with dozens more in the suburbs.

The news that the Savoy Cinema, which opened its doors in 1935, has been refurbished with new luxury reclining seats, made us feel quite nostalgic for the silver screen after getting all too used to streaming films in the comfort of home. You might be able to pause for a loo break and snacks but it's not the same as the immersive cinema experience.

We asked members of Nottingham's Old Pictures Facebook group for their movie-going experiences - and here's some of their tales about the fun, the scares and sneaking in to see their pop idols performing.

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Film-goers can munch on pick 'n' mix, nachos and hot dogs but back in the day the Odeon used to have a restaurant in the basement. The 2,500 seater cinema opened in 1933 as the Ritz before a name change to the Odeon in 1944 following a takeover.

The narrow entrance in Angel Row gave no hint of the size of the huge auditorium inside. As well as a large stage, it boasted a theatre organ and a large restaurant down below. Clive Barber recalled: "I remember the first film that I was ever taken to see by my mum was Sound of Music at the Odeon. During an extended intermission, some attendees went off for lunch."

Talking of food, Patricia Ann Terrington recalled her first trip there, also to see the Sound of Music. "Our mum took us with our Aunty Brenda and her kids. I remember our mum took a hot pork hock in to eat. The whole of the cinema smelt delicious."

Another outing was more disturbing. Patricia said: "I can remember going to see The Exorcist at The ABC cinema in 1974. The queue went all the way up Chapel Bar circled onto Friar Lane and back on to Mount Street. Some people from the church were giving out leaflets to help those who might later be traumatised.

"St John’s ambulance was there too as quite a few people fainted during the film. I’ve only ever seen the film that one time… it did make an impact."

It was a jump scare of a different kind for one poor girl watching a horror film at the Elite Cinema. Gren Shepherd, who was sitting behind with his friend Dave, thought it would be funny to tap the girl's neck with his ice lolly at a moment of high tension. "Unfortunately she did not see the funny side of this and started screaming and having a sort of panic attack . After a few minutes the lights came on and Dave and I were ejected by the manager, we didn't even get our money back. Happy days."

There was also a nasty surprise for Avis Osborne, who had gone to see Clockwork Orange at the Elite. "I got the shock of my life when a rat ran over my feet," she commented.

Queuing to buy tickets at the box office was part and parcel of going to see a popular film. Peter Horridge remembered taking his two younger sisters to see Mary Poppins at the Odeon. "The queue was horrendous going all the way down past the Bell Inn. I said we’ll never get in so just walked back along Angel Row, intending to go home but as we drew level with the entrance a gap appeared so I quickly darted in followed closely by Andrea and Bev."

Many a first date was spent at the cinema. Lynne Broughton reminisced about seeing Top Gun at the Odeon with her boyfriend. "He bought me the movie poster as well. I just loved the grandeur of the staircase and the velvet curtains. I was gutted when it closed. I also went to my very first ever movie there, Snow White."

It wasn't the most romantic first date when Ady Paxton took his girlfriend to see Lethal Weapon. He recalled: "I had been at work the night before. I remembered seeing it start then next thing I was seeing was the credits. My girlfriend told me I snored all the way through. She didn't hold it against me, we are married now."

He might not have nodded off if they'd been to see Rocky. Chris Hayes told us: "Rocky 4 was the first and only time I saw a cinema crowd chanting and shouting at the top of their voices… R-O-C-K-Y. It was great venue and always felt special."

Film ratings didn't seem to matter and we heard about underage cinema-goers. Mick Kirkham said: "Being a bond 007 fanatic I took my four-year-old brother from Arnold to the the Futurist to see a double header of Bond films circa 1973," while Paul Bills said: "My first memory of going to the cinema was at the Odeon to see Towering Inferno in the centre of Nottingham. My mum took me and I was eight years old."

Then there were the medical emergencies. Alex Smalley said: "I went to the Odeon to see a film with my mum and ended up in the A&E with a peanut M&M lodged up my nose. I was nine at the time and thought it was hilarious."

Watching Bambi proved quite traumatic for Sweetie Pie - and not just because of the death of Bambi's mother. She said: "Mum took me and my brother to see Bambi. We were only little. I was probably three or four. I was restless and fidgeting. Mum kept telling me off. Then Bambi's mum died. Everyone went quiet and cried, as I shouted “IS SHE DEAD?” Mum dragged me outside for ruining a beautiful film, only to notice I was head to toe with spots from chicken pox, and covered in blood from scratching. I didn’t have the pox spots when we went in."

As well as showing films, the Odeon doubled up as a concert venue. The Beatles sent the crowd wild when they played there in the 1960s. Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Ray Charles also performed there.

Noreen Stainwright confessed: "My friend and I used to go up the alley at the back of the Odeon. Using a metal tail comb you could lift the bar on the fire exit from the outside. We then used to stand behind the fire curtain and watch the big pop shows for free! When they started to plat the National Anthem we used to open the fire door and leave ahead of the crowd. As teenagers and still at school we couldn’t afford the tickets."

Wendy Honeyman-Smith's dad used to play double bass in the Odeon's resident jazz band. She remembered: "He said when all the teen music changed around 1963, and everyone went wild with Beatlemania, the Stones and the Liverpool sound, suddenly all the bands that played jazz and ‘the standards’ were no longer in demand. Mind you, he did manage to get my friend and I two coveted tickets to see the Beatles in December 1963."

Kev Williams had his first Saturday job at the Odeon from 1979 to 1980. He said: "My role was to change the titles on the awning. I had to first go down to the basement, fill up an old ice cream tray with the letters in the film titles, back to front so they were in the right order when I needed them, get a ladder, plonk it on the pavement, go up it and change the letters. My abiding memory is of drunks on Saturday night following me up the ladder - I had to fend them off with my foot."

The cinema holds special memories for Trayce Archer Pullen whose late mother-in-law worked there. "When I started dating her son we would occasionally to go see a movie here. I also used to go alone in the afternoons when I was pregnant with my first and waiting to pop, fond memories."

One of the perks of working at Ritzy nightclub in the 1990s was getting into the Odeon for free and the ABC for £1. Jez Shaw said: "I watched The Mask every night for over a week when it came out."

Our round-up wouldn't be complete without a ghostly tale. Christina Slater said the Odeon used to have a ghost of a 19-year-old construction worker called Fred who died in a fall. She said: "In the 70s they had a cat to catch the mice, and it wouldn't go down where the ice creams were kept in the basement. My husband's sister used to be one of the usherettes, and Fred was well known as he used to frighten them by touching them and making them jump. It wasn't another staff member as there was no-one else down there."