A unique Norfolk cinema with film star friends across the world will be putting on a special show for three days next week. Derek James heads to Wymondham

It has a story to tell which would make a film….the great characters who ran it and the role it played in the lives of so many people.

And when it closed, it didn’t close….I will explain.

Eastern Daily Press: The Regal Chums Club membership card.The Regal Chums Club membership card. (Image: Philip Yaxley Collection)

On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week, as part of Heritage Open Days, the Regal Cinema, will be opening its doors again and welcoming people to a remarkable display following its fascinating story.

And there will be a special tribute to Michael Armstrong who built his very own Regal when his beloved cinema closed. Michael died last year but his memory lives on.

Eastern Daily Press: Popular Pc Speakman who, because he wore a cape, was known as Batman, and was happy to promote the film with Robert Cavill, David Ashton and Les KingPopular Pc Speakman who, because he wore a cape, was known as Batman, and was happy to promote the film with Robert Cavill, David Ashton and Les King (Image: Philip Yaxley Collection)

The open days give us all the opportunity to learn about the history of the former Regal Cinema, now part of the town’s Ex-Services’ Club.

“The auditorium still boasts much original décor and there will be tours of the projection room, which still has the old Kalee 12 projectors in situ, led by the projectionist David Oldfield,” said Philip Yaxley.

Author and historian Philip is a member of the Regal Experience Group, which held film shows and attracted many stars to the town after the cinema had closed. The Sunday afternoon classic film shows were sell-outs.

Eastern Daily Press: Fancy a wheelchair race? Michael Armstrong meets up with Tony Curtis in HollywoodFancy a wheelchair race? Michael Armstrong meets up with Tony Curtis in Hollywood (Image: Philip Yaxley Collection)

And they raised large sums of money for numerous charities and good causes.

There will be short screenings next week which will include Pathe News, old adverts, local history nor forgetting dear old Tom and Jerry!

A display charting the Regal’s history, which opened in 1937, will be a star attraction and many of the rare items (I love the Chums Club rules and regulations) have been loaned by the Wymondham Heritage Museum. They were bequeathed by Michael.

And there will be a very special display dedicated to him who, as an 11-yerar-old lad in the 1950s, would fetch fish and chips for the projectionists on a Saturday night.

He went on to become a projectionist himself and the manager’s right-hand man, When the Regal closed commercially in 1993 he was determined to keep to keep its memory alive. He built his own magical mini replica Regal, inviting many people to his shows, and then founded The Regal Experience.

Eastern Daily Press: Michael Armstrong with June WhitfieldMichael Armstrong with June Whitfield (Image: Philip Yaxley Collection)

There will be photographs of him and others with film stars both in the UK and Hollywood. Michael, who was in a wheelchair, was once challenged to a race by Tony Curtis, also in a wheelchair at the time!

No story about the Regal would be complete without remembering the colourful and larger-than life manager Les King. What a great character. Who else could arrange for the Sally B to fly over the town when Memphis Belle was screened or take a horse down the aisle during a western.

Not forgetting how he persuaded the town’s bobby to dress up as Batman when the movie was shown…and so much more. He also raised money for many different charities.

There will also be a whole host of other displays including one about film star Jimmy Stewart who served at Tibbenham, Old Buckenham and Ketteringham Hall during the Second World War.

Eastern Daily Press: The most modern cinema in the district.The most modern cinema in the district. (Image: Philip Yaxley Collection)

Then there is a letter from Charlie Chaplin, a pair of gloves worn by Debbie Reynolds and….you will have to go and have a look.

Our sincere thanks to Philip Yaxley and all the members of The Regal Experience.

The Regal will be open next Tuesday (September 14), Thursday (16) and Saturday (18) each day from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 4.30pm at the Wymondham Ex-Services Club, Friarscroft Lane, Wymondham. Any queries to the organiser Keith Benjafield at k.benjafield@outlook.com