During the 1970s and 1980s Torquay lost several cinemas due to declining audiences.
The Regal/the ABC ran from 1933 to 1971 at Castle Circus, demolished in August 1992, to become the Job Centre.
The Electric/The Colony (1911-1986) was situated in Union Street/Temperance St.
The Tudor Cinema ran from 1926 to the mid 1970s, in Fore St, St Marychurch (now Bygones).
The studios fought the attractions of home entertainment by investing in blockbuster movies such as Jaws, Star Wars, and the Bond series. Yet there was another hugely successful movie genre that helped cinemas to survive for a few more years but which has largely disappeared from our collective memory. This was the British sex comedy, the product of the UK’s restrictions on pornography and the unintended consequence of government tax breaks.
The Eady Levy, established in 1957, was a tax on box office receipts intended to support the British film industry but, rather than giving birth to a slew of classics, we saw the emergence of comedy movies with sexual content. These began with ‘exposés’ of nudism or the sex trade, designed to get around the censors. Later they became romps in the tradition of the seaside postcard and the music hall. They ranged from the Confessions series to the Carry On films and were usually cheap and largely unfunny.
Now shunned, the sex comedy was extremely popular at the time. In 1975, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver was comfortably out grossed at the UK box office by Adventures of a Taxi Driver, and in 1977 Come Play With Me became Britain’s longest-running and most profitable domestic movie – a record it still retains.
It’s suggested that the first true British sex comedy starred Norman Wisdom in What’s good for the Goose (1969), to be followed by the penis-transplant themed Percy (1971).
Keeping up with the times, the Carry On series added nudity and sex in Carry on Loving, Carry on Girls, Carry on Dick Carry on England, and Carry on Emmannuelle. Incidentally, there were many unofficial sequels to the soft-core Emmanuelle (1974). To avoid copyright problems the spelling of the main character was slightly altered. Note the double ‘N’ in Carry On Emmannuelle (1978) which starred Kenneth Williams as the French ambassador to London.
More explicit were the erotic adventures of Timothy Lea in the Confessions series starring Robin Askwith: beginning with Confessions of a Window Cleaner, then of a Driving Instructor; Pop Performer; …from a Holiday Camp. This was followed by the Adventures series: Adventures of… a Taxi Driver… Private Eye … and Plumbers Mate.
The Eday Levy was abolished in 1985, effectively killing off the genre. However, these cheap to make but often extremely profitable movies sustained British film production at a time when the studio system was in decline. They also provided breaks for many unknown actors who moved on to better things: including Joanna Lumley and, giving a voiceover, Valerie Singleton.