I went to a celebration last Friday for the late, great David Stone and the legendary Gate Cinema in, you guessed it, Notting Hill – the home of the famous cinema.
The event was held not at the Gate, however, but at The Portobello Pop Up Cinema, a makeshift space built around reclaimed and recycled materials under the Westway motorway at the Ladbroke Grove end of Portobello Road.
The brainchild of Tim Burke, the cinema is now a permanent venue, financed as a non-profit and operating as a bona fide cultural space with a 7.5 metre screen and digital projector.
Stone died in April at the age of 78 and, with his wife Barbara, set up the Gate in 1974, running it as one of the UK’s most successful art cinemas for 12 years and buying their own films to play there. Among the titles the Stones brought to UK audiences was La Cage Aux Folles, Edouard Molinaro’s timeless comedy which played for several months in 1978 and which was the surprise tribute film for Stone on Friday.
A packed house sat in the mild chill of the autumn evening at the Portobello Pop Up and enjoyed the Molinaro film which is as fresh and funny as it was in 1978. Dylan Stone, one of Stone’s four children, introduced the screening at which David’s widow Barbara, daughter Alexandra and son Ethan were also present. The film was among his favourites.
“People came back several times to see [La Cage Aux Folles] when it played at the Gate,” recalled Barbara Stone after the show. “It was so popular we had queues round the block and we even had ticket touts. We had it exclusively because none of the major circuits wanted to play a “film about fags with subtitles.”
She also recalled that the projectionist had to screw down the rows of seats every morning before the cinema opened because the audience was laughing so much the night before that the rows would loosen from the back and forth rocking movement.
The sound of trains going by only heightened the unusual nature of the special film-viewing experience at the Pop Up which continues its current season through to Oct 23. Its fascinating programme includes films by Molly Dineen, Barney Platts Mills, Mike Sarne and Stephen Frears, who will attend a Q&A for his seminal1985 classic My Beautiful Laundrette.
For more information go to www.portobellopopup.com.