It’s cinematic nostalgia in a shed
The scene opens on a quiet Lyall Bay street: a long driveway leads to an unassuming outbuilding with a sign above the door saying ‘‘Time Cinema’’.
Inside, clocks and pianola rolls greet you. A clock on the wall announces: ‘‘ The next screening is at . . .’’ But it’s just the opening act. Old movie posters lure you around the corner like a detective in a 1930s noir thriller, then the full, technicolor scope hits you like Jimmy Cagney’s cosh.
Cameras, projectors, pictures and movie trinkets line the walls.
Posters and bills fill the gaps, and occasionally the ceiling.
Marilyn Monroe winks down at you. Next to her, Humphrey Bogart scowls at Bette Davis, while the flashing lights of pinball machines gleam off polished camera lenses. Cinematic pandemonium. ‘‘It’s deliberate, the reveal,’’ says Time Cinema director John Bell.
‘‘ What makes this place is people: their reactions, their enjoyment, their anticipation.
‘‘It’s the surprise factor. They come in thinking, ‘Who’s this old guy showing movies in his shed?’
‘‘But I think they [see] a bloke who is passionate about the moving image.’’
Passion is right. Bell has lost count of the number of projectors, cameras, artefacts and curios in the collection.
‘‘It’s not about how many I’ve got, but what I’ve got and what I do with it.’’
What he does is run Time Cinema, a private film club where you can see ‘‘yesterday again today’’.
It’s how Bell shares his love of the cinema, a love the 68-yearold says he has not had very long. ‘‘Only since I was nine.’’ He started showing films for friends with toy projectors.
‘‘I learned that showing an image on the wall, any sort of image at all, was very accept- able to people, especially in the days before television. It was a unique experience, no matter how simple it was.
‘‘As I was getting pleasure [watching the films] I was giving it,’’ he says. ‘‘ As I’ve gone on that’s grown with me.’’
He and his wife Margaret bought their house because of its large double garage.
A friend asked if he would consider showing a film there.
‘‘We did it and we had a ball,’’ Bell says. After that, it was a matter of tidying up the ‘‘shambles’’ of his collection.
‘‘[The display] started just like that. And it grew. And as it grew I found myself adjusting it and refining the environment and what you see today is the result.’’
The result includes an intimate 40-seat cinema that screens almost any format of film, tape or digital recording.
Every week Bell shows a nostalgic selection of shorts and documentaries, often with a New Zealand flavour.
Old feature movies, such as the often-requested Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Some Like It Hot, are the real draw.
‘‘The preference is the kiss and the rainbows and the wedding bells,’’ he says.
‘‘Even talking about it makes you feel good.’’
When the heroes win and the bad guys are vanquished, our spirits are lifted, he says.
We should leave Time Cinema with a spring in our step, ‘‘running down the road, whooping’’.
‘‘ What makes us feel like that?’’ asks Bell.
The answer is in the cabinets around us: ‘‘The movies.’’
For more information, call John Bell on 934 TIME (934 8463) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting reel: Cinema fan John Bell runs a private film club from his garage in Lyall Bay.