Vintage Cinema Club
Michael McAlinden takes a bus back to film's golden age for a special showing of John Ford's The Quiet Man
If you ever notice a vintage bus on Great Victoria Street, right out of the 1950s, looking odd and comically small beside Translink's nearby behemoths, don’t worry, you haven’t gone back in time. That is until you step aboard, at which point you'll be transported to an age of big screen classics courtesy of the Belfast Vintage Cinema Club.
The first taste you get of the vintage experience is the bus itself; from the polished brass seat rails to the dim lamps lining the sides, it's as authentic as it gets. This is how your grandparents would have got around in their day. It might even be what brought them to the nearest picture house.
And if that doesn't convince you, wait until the engine coughs, then roars into life. Suddenly you and your fellow cinephiles are off, shuddering and bumping along to the Tudor Cinema in Comber, where screenings take place. No power steering or hydraulic suspension here, this is travel just as it was in 1950s.
The event’s setting, arguably as important to the overall experience as the film itself, is a true to form, vintage cinema, used specifically for these monthly outings. With Comber a little more than half an hour away, the journey is just long enough to take you out of reality, without making you forget where it is you're going.
Passing Stormont on your left, it seems like Belfast is saying goodbye for the evening, and so too are the bright lights of the city, and 2016. Pulling up to the front doors of the cinema, it's like we've wound back the years to the the days of quaint little movie houses in rural Ireland.
In this sense, tonight's choice of movie couldn't be better. The Quiet Man sees John Wayne return to rural Ireland from big, busy, modern America, and with him we too are transported to a simpler time and place - if only for a few hours.
We're greeted with the black lettering of the cinema marquee, proudly declaring 'John Wayne in THE QUIET MAN'. The retro aesthetic is in full force from the get-go, with little to juxtapose from the semblance of another eld.
On disembarking, passengers feel the urge to photograph the bus, the cinema, everything. With a few minutes free before the show, you have the chance to look around the cinema, and you’ll notice the vintage stylings don’t stop with the building’s exterior.
Movie posters and photos of celebrities from yesteryear line the walls, and there’s even a working jukebox in the corner, to entertain us before the movie begins. Just don’t bother looking for Adele or One Direction. Roy Orbison or Buddy Holly is more popular here.
Once everyone has filed into the cosy 66 seater screening room, the show begins. The curtains sweep away from the screen to reveal – not the movie, not yet – but a newsreel from the 1950s, another unique touch for the evening. And, after a quick bulletin from yesteryear, it’s time for the main show.
Indeed, not much needs to be said about the film. Naturally, it is a classic, one of John Ford’s best, and shows Ireland in a positive, if slightly American, light. There are audience members who have never seen it, and those who watch it religiously, and, should the projector break down, would be able to re-enact it in full for the others.
Regardless, no one has seen it like this before; on the big screen, in a cinema like this, so previous knowledge of the film is not necessary. And, if John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara are not to your liking, no matter. Unless your age is close to triple figures, the Belfast Vintage Cinema Club hosts monthly showings of old films you assuredly have never seen in such a context. All the more reason to experience it today.
For the latest showings and vintage bus trips to Tudor Cinema, check the Belfast Vintage Cinema Club Facebook page. Tickets are limited. To book visit www.belfastcitysightseeing.com or call 028 9032 1321.