MAX GIBSON: THE MAN BEHIND THE MAGIC

How long have you been working in this cinema?
This cinema, two years.

So what about the young folk of today and cinema?
There’s a strange thing about young people today, talking about the multiplexes. It’s amazing how many young people have said to me, “I don’t like a multiplex.” And I say, “Oh, how’s that?” I’m talking about young people of 14-16. “Oh, there’s not much atmosphere in them.” And I say to them – and this is on more than one occasion – “How would you know what the atmosphere in a cinema is like, a real cinema?” And they can’t answer you. But the strange thing is they instinctively know something’s missing.

I take it you’re not a fan of multiplexes at all then, Max?
No, I mean, it’s the way forward, you can’t stop it, but there is something missing, of course. I call them supermarket cinemas. And I could tell you what’s missing.

What do you regard as missing?
The magic. It is no longer an event. It’s blasé like going to school, going to the shop, going to the sports club, going to the cinema. In days gone by when you went to the cinema, it was an important event because people’s lives are different to what they are now. In the heyday of cinema when I was small, people were living in substandard housing conditions – the toilet was on the outside stairway, shared by up to six families. The pipes froze every winter, nobody went holidays, they couldn’t afford them. The men

went down the pits or to the shipyard, the wives generally worked helluva hard keeping a house and bringing up the kids. Where was their escape? Three hours of magic at the local picture house. And what the kids miss nowadays is 3,000 children sitting in a cinema cheering Flash Gordon on and booing Emperor Ming, and absolutely going crazy when the cavalry arrives at the last minute. Poor Indians, I know – you can’t make films like that now. But that was real excitement. It was a huge influence in people’s lives, the cinema, and that’s one of the things the Museum will tap into. Because every person who lived in Scotland or anywhere, but we’re talking about a Scottish Cinema Museum, was influenced by the cinema more than anything else in their lives. Television doesn’t do it. You sit there and it influences you, yeah, but it didn’t influence people like the cinema did.

Postscript:
The ABC has now been torn down and replaced with a sterile, soulless multiplex. Max is looking to write a book about his experiences over a half-century of being a projectionist. It will be a work in equal parts about sociology, the evolution of equipment, and stories about stars and films in general. If there are any publishers out there who would be interested in such an unusual project from one of the last practitioners of a dying cinematic art, please contact me at graham_rae@hotmail.com and I’ll put you in contact with the man. Thank you.




Posted on March 3, 2004 in Interviews by

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