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Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Thursday, 3 June 2010 12:24 UK
Movies on the move in vintage mobile cinema in Devon
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

The mobile cinema
The vintage mobile cinema - restored after five years of hard work

Five years ago the Movie Bus was a rusty old heap, rotting away in a field - but just look at it now!

The vintage mobile cinema - a Bedford SB3 - has been lovingly restored by its Devon owner, Ollie Halls, and has now taken to the roads in north Devon, showing archive films of the area.

It seems the perfect place to sit and watch historic footage.

The archive film project is run with the backing of groups including the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

With lottery funding, the Movie Bus has secured the use of films stored by the South West Film and Television Archive.

Eight 20-minute films will be taken on a tour of towns and villages in north Devon during 2010.

The seven mobile cinemas in 1967
There were originally seven mobile cinemas - Ollie's is the only one remaining

The first two films are A Tale of Two Rivers, about the Taw and Torridge, and Sootbombs and Blazing Barrels, which features clips dating back to the 1930s.

These can be seen at the North Devon Festival and the Appledore Visual Arts Festival in early June 2010, and at other venues throughout the summer, including the Lynton and Lynmouth Music Festival and the Goldcoast Oceanfest.

The third film, funded by the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, looks at the area's coastline, and the fourth film is about agriculture in north Devon. Some of the footage has not been seen for 50 years or more.

Admission to the screenings is free.

The project is a dream come true for Honiton-based Ollie and his partner, Emma Giffard, who is the museum's project co-ordinator.

"When Ollie bought it five years ago it wouldn't move," said Emma. "The engine was seized.

Interior of the cinema
The interior has 22 cinema seats from the 1930s

"It was a beast really - the inside was gutted and it was just a complete mess."

The mobile cinema is the only one remaining of seven which were used from 1967 by the Ministry of Technology to tour the country to promote British production techniques.

It had been lying unused in a field in Essex before Ollie rescued it.

"Ollie was a visual arts student specialising in cinema and he's also a vintage vehicle enthusiast," explained Emma.

"So when someone told him about the bus, it married together his two loves.

"It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to reach this point, plus help from volunteers."

The bus might have been a snip to buy, but the restoration has taken a lot of time and money.

Archive photo of the Movie Bus
An archive photo of converted Bedford which is now the Movie Bus

Emma says it is all worth it now: "It looks great. The inside was particularly utilitarian - it had 28 coach seats originally, and we have put in 22 cinema seats from the 1930s.

"We are getting it out into rural communities and we've had a really positive response - everyone is amazed by it. They're really impressed by the bus and the films we are showing.

"And it seems just so right to be watching these archive films in these surroundings.

"We were very, very lucky to get the bus just in time. It's quite a unique piece of heritage."

In the longer term, Ollie and Emma want to continue to work locally on educational and archive projects. But they are also taking the bus to festivals further afield to raise money to subsidise their Devon screenings.

"It can be used for shorts, feature films, art house movies, all sorts," said Emma.

Visit the Movie Bus website for more information about its history and film screenings.

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