Adur District Council’s decision to preserve the landmark Luxor building in Lancing has been met with praise from one of Britain’s most illustrious cinematographers Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE.
Sir Sydney’s career in the film industry began in the 1940s art deco building in South Street. Since then, both he and the building have embarked on different paths: Sir Sydney ventured into Hollywood and became a Bafta grandee while the Luxor has fallen into disrepair.
But plans to renovate the Luxor are now afoot – something which pleases the film empresario.
When he heard about the renovation – and council’s insistence that the front of the building be preserved for future generations, he contacted the local authority to say: “It is quite touching to find that the front facade of the old Luxor will be retained.”
Back in the day, the Luxor building was a thriving picture house with cinema-goers queuing round the block to catch the latest releases.
The Art Deco facade and the Luxor name was once a much-loved landmark for the village but over recent years the building has been neglected and fallen into disrepair.
Development plans are now underway to restore this 1930s treasure and plans were given permission by Adur’s planning committee in October.
Even though the building is not formally listed, the development was approved on the condition that the building’s facade and Luxor name be maintained.
The Luxor building has great sentimental value for Sir Sydney because he started his first job there even before it opened its doors as a cinema.
He said: “I was employed to clean up after the builders together with my mop, scrubbing brush and pail.”
In 1940, cinema staff didn’t go to film school but started the old fashioned way.
“You just had to start at the bottom claw your way up and hope for a bit of luck,” he said.
Being an ambitious lad he didn’t stay as a cleaner for long and at just 14 years old he became a trainee ‘rewind boy’.
He explained: “There is nothing lower in the projection box than that.”
The job involved rewinding 35mm reels of film from one spool to the other with a handle.
Training was tough and during his first few weeks, he wasn’t even allowed to rewind the film and most of his time was spent keeping out of the way of “his brutal employer,” the Chief Projectionist (who had been pirated from the Plaza, Worthing).
Sir Sydney survived the strict training and went on to become a newsreel cameraman.
In 1953 he was one of an elite team given the honour of filming the Queen’s Coronation.
When a spring broke in the camera minutes before the start, his technical knowledge saved the day and he caught the moment by the skin of his teeth.
He also used his filming expertise to help produce blockbuster films such as Oliver!, Gandhi and James Bond!
From a 14-year-old trainee ‘rewind boy’ in Lancing, Sir Sydney has held some of the most important jobs in the film industry.
Not only was he appointed the chairman of BAFTA, he was made the UK’s first film commissioner responsible for encouraging Hollywood filmmakers to make their films in Britain.
He was also awarded a CBE for services to the film industry and given a knighthood by Prince Charles.
Sir Sydney Samuelson is one of the most successful film producers this country has ever seen, but he has never forgotten his Lancing roots and his time at the Luxor.
He said: “I may be one of the very few people still alive who worked at the Luxor when it opened.”
Cllr Brian Boggis Adur District Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration said: “It was good to hear Sir Sydney Samuelson’s memories of the Luxor cinema.
“Local history and people’s memories are important, and our decision to insist on preserving the building will bring the facade of the building back to its former glory.”