Why St Mary’s Phantom is a silent era supporter of historic Hitchin landmark

St Mary's Church, Hitchin

St Mary's Church, Hitchin - Credit: Archant

A silent cinema classic will be screened in the atmospheric setting of Hitchin’s ancient parish church later this month to help raise funds to preserve the Grade I-listed landmark.

Lon Chaney in the 1925 silent classic Phantom Of The Opera

Lon Chaney in the 1925 silent classic Phantom Of The Opera - Credit: Archant

And if enough film fans flock to see the 1925 Lon Chaney masterpiece The Phantom Of The Opera you can expect to see other examples of cinema’s golden age at St Mary’s, with organisers already considering cult vampire film Nosferatu, Buster Keaton’s The General and Fritz Lang’s remarkable sci-fi silent movie Metroplis for future showings.

The church council’s events committee was quick to see the potential of cinema after it was proposed by member Rachel Bagenal, who saw a similar event at St Albans Abbey about 15 years ago.

The church makes an ideal setting for films from the silent era because of its impressive organ, which will be played on the night by one of the experts in the field, Donald MacKenzie.

But as well as an organ, a cinema showing also needs a screen, and the committee searched high and low before realising that the solution was on the doorstep.

St Mary's Church, Hitchin

St Mary's Church, Hitchin - Credit: Archant


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Outdoor cinema experts Sundown Cinema, based at Hitchin Lavender, has stepped forward with a suitable screen while Hitchin Films, which presents arthouse movies at the town’s Market Theatre and Queen Mother Theatre, has also provided invaluable advice and is selling advance tickets to the Saturday, January 17, show on its website.

Rachel, who has been organising the show along with churchwardens Michael Taylor, Robin Sternberg and Derry Charman, said: “St Mary’s is the most wonderful building, a priceless gift to our generation from many past centuries of devoted care.

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“But to maintain this heritage for future centuries there is a constant need for funds. There’s some scaffolding on the church at the moment to deal with a problem with one of the roof bears, but many other projects in the coming years will have to be financed.”

To book £12 tickets visit www.hitchinfilms.co.uk.

Donald Mackenzie, noted cinema organist who will play at St Mary's Church, Hitchin, in January

Donald Mackenzie, noted cinema organist who will play at St Mary's Church, Hitchin, in January - Credit: Archant

They’re also available from the Hitchin Initiative office in Churchyard, David’s Bookshop in Letchworth or from any St Mary’s churchwarden.

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