The Smallest Show on Earth

A young couple inherit a run-down cinema and must turn it around with the help of the eccentric staff in this funny but very much forgotten classic of British cinema.

When the McKennas inherit a cinema they discover that it isn't a sumptuous modern palace, but the decrepit Bijou, known locally as 'the fleapit', all moth eaten chairs, creaking floor boards, leaking roof and questionable heating system. Their business is threatened by the far more modern Grand Cinema around the corner, but instead of selling off the fleapit to its owner, they succumb to the inept charms of the crazed, aged staff - including boozy old projectionist Peter Sellers, doddery commissionaire Bernard Miles and dotty ticket lady Margaret Rutherford. Can they take on the odds and win?

Douglas Slocombe’s use of light and shadow is a masterclass on how to enhance a simple set like a classic cinema’s auditorium and make it spellbinding. Whether it is a small glint of light through a cracked window or the light of the projector onto the cinema’s screen, every shot within the space of the Bijou is superbly put together. With an impressive cast of Ealing regulars The Smallest Show on Earth is a wonderful snapshot through the world of cinema-going in the 1950s. A real rare treat for all cinephiles!

Screening as part of our year-long season - CINEMA ON SCREEN

Programme Type: Film

Director: Basil Dearden

Cast: Peter Sellers, Margaret Rutherford, Virginia McKenna, Leslie Phillips, Sid James

Certificate: U

Running Time: 82 minutes

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