Cat no. 226513

British Cinema History Research Project Oral Histories: Jack Rockett (exhibitor)

c.1988

Jack Rockett (1908 - ?)
Interviewed by Sid Cole and Roy Fowler

Jack Rockett was born in Walthamstow in July 1908. He began as an office boy with the Gaumont company in Denham Street. By 1934 he was working from the West End cinema Birmingham (in Edmund Street) as a regional stock-taker and occasional mobile manager for the Gaumont-British circuit. He had become an ‘internal auditor’ around the time of the merger with Odeon, and after a period of war service in engineering factories, he spent most of the 1950s and 60s as a regional area manager for Rank, based variously in Birmingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

In this fascinating interview with Sid Cole and Roy Fowler at Rockett’s home in Glebelands (the CTBF rest home), Rockett gives a rare insight into the trade from the exhibitors’ point of view. He discusses the life of the Area manager, detailing particularly the gala opening of 'South Pacific' (1958) at the Manchester Gaumont, and incidents surrounding the 1956 screening of 'Rock Around the Clock' (1956) at Whitley Bay (in which he had to deal with a local press eager to manufacture a ‘teenage’ reaction which could have threatened the films’ local certification). Rockett talks about the importance of publicity and ‘showmanship’ and the crucial relationships between the local cinema manager, the press, the local community and the local authorities (the Watch Committees). He recalls some of the anomalies of the local licensing system (particularly in Sale, near Manchester). He gives a good description of the levels of staffing at a ‘typical’ cinema in the 1930s, and the changes that occurred in exhibition during the post war era. His assessment of John Davis (Managing Director of Rank), and of the Quota system, make particularly refreshing reading, underlining the differences in outlook between the production and exhibition sectors.