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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Half-century for half-pint cinema
La Charrette cinema
La Charrette cinema can now show digital films
The smallest cinema in Wales is to mark its 50th anniversary with a celebration dinner for its elite group of members.

On 18 October, 1953, La Charrette - housed in a converted railway carriage in a back garden in Gorseinon, near Swansea - screened its first film.

Movie fans have continued to fill the 23 seats ever since and it remains as popular as ever with a waiting list of people wanting to join the 70 strong members' club.

At the event they will commemorate the late founder Gwyn Phillips and thank his wife Rita for allowing them to continue screening films in the unique setting.

It's exactly like walking into a cinema from the 1950s, the decor has been kept the same
Wayne John

Mr Phillips, an electrician by trade, fell in love with films while working in local cinemas as a teenager.

He built La Charrette in his back garden but sadly passed away in 1996 just a few months before The British Film Institute presented La Charrette with a plaque for its contribution to the industry.

Big multiplexes

His friend Wayne John now manages the cinema which screens one film every month on three successive evenings - hence the limit on membership of just 70 people.

"Most of the original members were friends and neighbours. Now some of the current members are their sons or daughters," he said.

"Most live locally in Gorseinon but we have members who travel from Gower, Burry Port or Morriston.

"We tend to go for middle of the road films. We run films about two or three months after they have been shown in the big multiplexes and just before they go out on video."


Recent screenings that have proved popular with members are the Tom Hanks films Catch Me If You Can and Road to Perdition.

Thanks to an 8,000 grant from the National Lottery, La Charrette can show films in digital format but apart from the technology little has changed since the first showing.

"It's exactly like walking into a cinema from the 1950s, the decor has been kept the same," added Mr John.

"It has survived the 1960s when many local cinemas were turned into bingo halls, the 1970s when people started buying videos, the 1980s and the multiplexes and the 1990s and DVD."

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