Romaine Hart gave me my beginnings in the world of cinema by hiring me as a bailiff at the Screen on the Green cinema in Islington, London, when I was 18; alongside programmer Roger Austin, she taught me fundamental lessons in cinema management that inspired me through the Other Cinema, Scala and later Palace years.
As a teenager, I had witnessed the transformation of my premises, the Rex cinema on Upper Street, a low-end chip that was part of a declining chain owned by the Bloom family (Romaine’s maiden name), in Screen on the Green, with sound and smart programming. It was showing critically acclaimed, mostly American classics by day (the first doubles program I attended when I was 15 was The Graduate and The Thomas Crown Affair). From 11:15 p.m., the late-night cinema club featured cult films like Performance, daring double posters with Chabrol, Kurosawa and other world cinema greats, and obscure but daring food like Henry Miller’s Quiet Days in Clichy. . The Friday White Nights of the Marx Brothers and Humphrey Bogart classics were usually packed to capacity.
To keep this difficult program viable in newly gentrified Islington, Romaine kept overhead costs to a minimum (I can still feel the weight of those heavy metal 35mm film cases, making them go up and down the narrow stairs to the tiny projection box). Sales of Kia-Ora squash drinks and boxes of Maltesers were pushed to their limits with all the ushers taking ice cream breaks with a tray between films – even at 1am.
It was difficult in the 70s: the cinema audiences were at their lowest and the screen was not allowed to show first-run films, which instead went to the Odeon Angel, at the ABC cinema on Holloway Road. and Essoldo Caledonian Road. Romaine was a shrewd, incisive and – beneath the sometimes gruff but glamorous exterior of business – generous person who gave me a fundamental foundation not only in the exhibition but also in the distribution with her company Mainline Pictures.
With Roger, she distributed films by Alan Rudolph, Monte Hellman, Billy Wilder and John Waters at a time when distribution costs were high; later I released Eraserhead with her at La Scala. The sleepless night’s lineup of films interspersed with live performances from the then-unknown Sex Pistols, The Clashes and the Buzzcocks was just another brilliant move that inspired a new generation of punk fans in the cinema. It was an unforgettable event to have been an usher and another example of thinking outside the box against the oppressive shackles that the film industry had imposed on the show at that time.
Romaine’s attributes are too numerous to list but, as a woman in the British film industry of the 1970s, frankly slow and male dominated, her keen eye, good taste, quick wit and sense of l contagious humor has emerged as a ray of hope for so many follow-ups. Later, I took his values ââwith me into production – his principles of acquiring high quality or challenging films combined with reasonable budgets stay with me as a producer. Personally, I owe Romaine and Roger a lot, and trying to put words to that is hard, but she transformed the cinema in that little part of London where I grew up and brought back the excitement in a pre-home video. , pre-multichannel TV era, when most people pronounced the film industry dead in the water.