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East Meon Cinema

Films in the Village Hall

In 2006, Moviola, a charity (click here for Moviola website) started screening films in East Meon. Below is a description, from Meon Matters, of the operation.

When the History Group was archiving the records of East Meon Institute (click here for records of the Institute in the archive) it was discovered that films had been shown there during and after World War II.

Films in the Institute

The Institute, predecessor of the Village Hall.

The Institute, predecessor of the Village Hall.

Before the Village Hall was built in 1974, East Meon had a ramshackle but thriving Institute (click here for records of the Institute in the online archive). In February 1942 it held a Warship Week, to raise money for the Navy. One of the events was an ‘In. of I(nformation). Film Programme’. The minutes have no more information, but later that year it was screening Ministry of Information films every other month.

After the War, the South Downs Cinema Co. was hiring the Large Room for £1.12.6d a screening. In 1948, its successor the New Forest Cinema had to curtail screenings because of the petrol shortage. In 1955 the Management Committee had a disagreement with the Cinema company about screening dates, and the service came to an end.

Phill Walkley, the man behind Moviola, reckons that in wartime only documentaries would have been available, and after the war a limited diet of films available on 16mm and long past their cinema release dates.

Petersfield Post announces arrival of Moviola in East Meon, October 2006

Petersfield Post announces arrival of Moviola in East Meon, October 2006

Bringing movies to the countryside – the Moviola story

From Meon Matters, by Michael Blakstad, November 2010
There are Moviola Partners in 90 village and town halls around the south of England; these are the people who organise the venues while Moviola provides the films, the equipment and the presenters. At a recent meeting of Partners it was suggested that those who go to the films have little idea what Moviola is or how it operates.

It is a charity with just two people running it, Christina and Phill Walkley who work on very small salaries and a deep love of rural cinema. Christina lives in Yetminster, Dorset, and administers Moviola from her cottage. They are no longer married, though they work together amicably; Phill now lives in Sitges, near Barcelona in Spain, doing most of his work over email and internet telephone.

Moviola started life ten years ago as Dorset Film Touring. Phill had a vision of a mobile cinema, a purpose-built lorry with seating and projection equipment which would travel around Dorset screening films as it went. In the event, it proved more practical to seat the audiences in their own halls and erect projection equipment for each event.

Over the years, the network of Partners has grown to cover an area from West Devon to East Hampshire and so, inevitably, has the Moviola operation. It now has half a dozen freelance presenters who arrive at the venue, set up the projector and speakers, introduce the film and project the movie.

The most important function Phill performs is to negotiate the rights to show the films. Anyone who has ever tried to negotiate with film distributors to show a film to a small audience will know how difficult it is. Moviola can attract a total audience of up to 9,000 to a film, which makes it the ‘biggest multiplex in the South’. When the rights are secured, Phill issues a menu to the Partners, from which we select the films we think our audiences will enjoy. Christina schedules the presenters and issues publicity material while Phill compiles DVDs with trailers and short films, to be copied in England and distributed via the presenters.

We, the Partners, sell the tickets and organise the evenings. Of the ticket sales, 35% goes to the film distributors, 40% to Moviola and 25% to the Partner (in our case, to the Village Hall), which also pockets any profits it makes from the sale of drink and ice cream. East Meon Moviola returns between £1,000 and £2,000 to the Village Hall each year. Moviola doesn’t make a profit – the Trustees, of which I am the chairman, face a challenge in that the organisations which provide small grants to keep Moviola solvent have been axed by the government.

But we are determined to keep Moviola going since we know its value to the village and town communities is immense. An opportunity to walk instead of drive to the cinema, to meet friends and neighbours, to see films picked to meet the taste of villagers projected on big screens. That’s what the seminar in November was about – how to increase audiences and revenues so that we won’t miss the public funds we are now denied. We hope East Meon residents will turn out in ever-increasing numbers; use it or lose it!

In April 2014, Michael and Tricia Blakstad stood down from running Moviola in East Meon. Michael wrote another piece for Meon Matters


One of the chores befalling a Parish Councillor is the regular distribution of a fat file of miscellaneous papers which might be of interest but usually aren’t. This was the exception – an inconspicuous notice of an charity called Moviola which was offering to screen movies in village & town halls. I had been exploring the possibility of our Village Hall buying the equipment needed to show movies – screen, projector, audio and ticketing – which had proved too expensive, to say nothing of the fact that we knew nothing about the complex and laborious business of negotiating for the rights to the individual films.
So I contacted Moviola and we arranged a pilot screening in March 2006; this was my first contact with the presiding genius of Moviola, Phill Walkley, a retired teacher who researches and books the films, and his ex-wife, Christina, a retired museum curator – both movie fanatics. Christina’s responsibilities include scheduling projectionists and their equipment to over 80 venues each month in the South and South West.

(In parenthesis, I was later invited to become a Trustee, and subsequently Chair of the Trustees, of the Moviola charity).
Our first film was ‘The Constant Gardener’, and on this occasion Phill placed the DVD player on the stage, projecting over the heads of the audience. As Moviola punters know, we now do the reverse, with the screen on the stage. For eight months, September to April, and for eight years now, we have shown films to audiences which average around 70; we contribute around £1,000 to the Village Hall each year and the events are an opportunity for villagers to meet each other as well as, hopefully, enjoy the films.

We have had substantially the same steering group since 2006 …. Sasha Brook (who was then chair of the Village Hall Committee) Gilli Williams, Roger Marsh, Diana Rix and Lucy Hollis as well as Tricia and myself. Between us, we choose the movies from a DVD of trailers (and notes) compiled by Phill; we book the hall, publicise the films, sell the tickets, prepare the hall and help the Moviola projectionist to set up his or her equipment (and dismantle it). The Village Hall arranges for drinks and, in the interval, ice creams to be sold; Garry and Judy Hunt now organise a ‘Supper Club’ which provides substantial snacks for those who want to eat before the movie; Judy has joined the steering group.

We, Tricia and I, have now decided to call it a day and Lucy Hollis, with the support of husband Chris, are gamely taking over the job of over-seeing the process. The rest of us will continue to pitch in, and I know Lucy would welcome suggestions for new members so that we old fogies can step right back.