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 cin­ema@par­


Get­ting reel: Cin­ema fan John Bell runs a pri­vate film club from his garage in Lyall Bay.

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