Since retiring from teaching, Tom Hughes has spent years researching the growth of the cinema industry in his native city, from early “electric theatres” to the modern multiplexes.
The resulting book, entitled: “How Belfast Saw the Light: A cinematic history” depicts Tom’s life-long passion for film and has been described by a reviewer as “possibly the most comprehensive and meticulously researched account of the cinema industry in any city anywhere.”
Mr Hughes commented: “This is a book about people, from the people who brought the first kinetoscope to the city, to the cinema managers, the projectionists, the usherettes and, of course, the big Hollywood stars. After all, film was the major entertainment and arts form of the twentieth century.”
Mr Hughes revealed that he has been an avid film fan since boyhood. He continued: “This book is the fulfilment of a life-long ambition to tell the story of film-going in my native city.
“A particular interest was the reaction of Belfast audiences to feature films and newsreels which reflected major happenings at home and around the world over the decades.
“In 1939 there were forty-three cinemas in Belfast. Ten years into the Troubles there were only five, but the arrival of the multiplexes and digital projection has rekindled the cinema-going habit. The story of cinema must surely be a vital part of the cultural and social history of our time.”
The book contains anecdotes and potted biographies of the biggest stars of the day, including Chaplin, Cagney, Bogart, Garbo and stars who Belfast such as Bob Hope, Laurel and Hardy, Gypsy Rose Lee and Diana Dors.
Cinemas which have long disappeared, such as the Ritz, the Tivoli, the Forum, the Curzon, the Troxy, the Windsor, the Broadway, the Regal and others are also vividly evoked in the book.
“How Belfast Saw the Light: A Cinematic History” is available from Camerons in Ballymena and online from Amazon UK, priced at £20.