Longstanding CEA Board member and prominent independent cinema operator Gerald Parkes this week received his MBE, awarded in the Queen’s 2013 New Year’s Honours List.
From there he worked his way up to projectionist and then into management, becoming Assistant Manager at Dewsbury in 1964 and the youngest manager in the ABC Cinemas company at the Ritz, Keighley in 1969.
By 1971 he had become manager of the ABC Harrogate and then in 1980 the ABC Doncaster.
At that point, Gerald decided that he wanted to run his own cinema company – Parkway Entertainment Limited being established in 1983 – and bought the Regal, Worksop in 1985. In addition, in 1987, Gerald acquired the Majestic, Scunthorpe. Adding screens and a cafe, Gerald turned this into the most successful cinema of the (then) eight in that town before selling that building to the major company UCI. All of this was at a time when cinema-going in the UK was at what still remains an historic low, and represented a significant financial risk for Gerald and his family.
After opening the Playhouse in Louth in 1996, Gerald embarked on ambitious plans to build a new multiplex cinema in Cleethorpes. Competing against rival bids from the major circuits, Gerald’s vision for not just a cinema but a focal point for the local community won out. After a great deal of effort and following significant investment at huge financial risk, the new site opened in 2004. Such was its success that in 2011 it won an industry award for best UK independent cinema site.
As well as the Cleethorpes site, Gerald owns another cinema in Louth, Lincolnshire and jointly owns the Parkway in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Neither site is a significant source of income, but Gerald has worked hard to ensure that these communities – both experiencing economic difficulty – still enjoy the big screen experience.
Throughout his life, Gerald has been a showman. He is a huge advocate for what he calls ‘the theatrical experience’, believing that all customers should expect – and deserve – ‘a show’.
In 2011, Gerald won a RAAM industry award for his (then) fifty years contribution to cinema.
In all three communities that his cinemas serve, Gerald has worked closely with the community and local charities. He hosts – and takes part in – comedy nights at all three sites, which also are the venues for hugely popular ‘silver screen’ events for older customers alongside kids clubs and talks to local groups young and old on the tradition of UK cinema.
The proceeds from all of these events go to Rotary International. In recognition of this, in August 2011 Gerald received a top Rotary Award – a Paul Harris Fellowship – for his charity work.
Gerald has involved all of his family – his wife Denise and his two sons – Richard and Gerrard – in the business.
The CEA warmly congratulates Gerald on this much-deserved honour.