It was with great sadness that the CEA learnt late last week that Gerald Parkes MBE, longstanding CEA Executive Board member and independent cinema owner, had passed away after a brave struggle with illness.
He had just a few days earlier received his MBE, awarded in the 2013 New Year Honours List for services to cinema.
Gerald joined the cinema industry in October 1960 as a ‘rewind boy’ at the ABC Regal, Wakefield. 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.
Never one to rest on his laurels, in 2012 Gerald announced plans for a new cinema development in Beverley, East Yorkshire.
Gerald Parkes was an outstanding local entrepreneur and personality who took considerable personal and financial risk to ensure that the theatrical experience continued to be available to communities in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. His commitment to the industry and wider entertainment was legendary and benefited every community his cinemas served.
Friends and colleagues at the CEA and across the cinema industry would like to offer his wife Denise and sons Richard and Gerrard – all of whom have supported Gerald in making his company such a success – our sincere condolences at this time.