Obituary: Jim Poole

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JIM POOLE was the only male in the fourth generation of a show- business family which created a highly successful travelling attraction, a precursor of the cinema, called the Myriorama. Poole made his own mark by establishing the Cameo cinema as a notable outlet for top quality foreign films in his home town of Edinburgh. He also became president in 1968-69 of the powerful Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association.

Back in 1948, the Cameo was the King's, which Poole recalled in a 1996 interview as "a third-run cinema in a very decrepit state, but, if you got past the grime and the rather peculiar green and yellow decoration, the Victorian architecture of the building was pretty good". Poole had to patch a leaking roof and dispatch the rat population before re-launching it as the Cameo in 1949 against his father's advice.

He was inspired not only by the success of the specialised programming at the Cosmo in Glasgow but by the low rates for which continental films could then be hired. He had huge successes with Jacques Tati's comedies among others and in 1978, when the big circuits spurned Annie Hall, played the Woody Allen comedy for a grand total of 16 weeks. He also served on the council of the Edinburgh Film Festival, which used the Cameo for screenings.

By the time Jim Poole was born, the Myriorama had been largely replaced by moving pictures. But it lasted until the talkies came in 1928 - in its final years being revived as a Christmas treat. Poole described it as "a series of large moving canvases and tableaux". Tall rolls of panoramic paintings were slowly extended across the full width of the stage while a lecturer explained the significance of each view to the accompaniment of sound effects.

Wars and disasters were highly popular subjects. "The Loss of the Titanic held the box-office take - it was the greatest success in our Myriorama history," declared Poole. Paintings showed the departure from Liverpool, the view off the Needles lighthouse, the crash into the iceberg, the rockets, the lifeboats, and the rescue of survivors.

Educated at Durham, Poole was trained in every aspect of the cinema business before, at the age of 21, being put in charge of his father's newly built Regent in Aberdeen which he put on the map with some lively publicity stunts. It was sold to Odeon and renamed, but he returned as guest of honour at the 50th anniversary in 1982.

The Poole circuit included the sleek new Roxy in the Edinburgh suburb of Gorgie, which opened in 1937 and succumbed to bingo in 1963, plus the Hippodrome, Gloucester, King's Hall, Stourbridge, and Coliseum, Cheltenham. Poole's also retained the cavernous Synod Hall on Edinburgh's Castle Terrace which housed the circuit headquarters in its Room 18.

In contrast to the Cameo, the Synod Hall specialised in X- certificate horror double bills and was still highly profitable when in 1965 the City Council forced its closure and rapid demolition for a new opera house - the site remained vacant for years.

The Cameo was the last of the Poole cinemas, closed when he retired in September 1982, but subsequently re-opened under new management and beautifully restored, still showing specialised films with two new mini-cinemas attached.

Allen Eyles

John Kennedy Stafford Poole, film exhibitor: born 7 July 1911; married 1936 Iris Sterckx (three daughters); died 16 January 1998.