Luxor renovation brings back happy memories for cinematographer

Planning committee chairman Carol Albury and cabinet member for regeneration Brian Boggis study the Luxor
Planning committee chairman Carol Albury and cabinet member for regeneration Brian Boggis study the Luxor

The decision to preserve the iconic Luxor building in Lancing has been praised by a cinematographer, who started his career at the art deco building in 1940.

Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE went on to develop a successful career in the film industry and become a Bafta grandee, while the former cinema in South Street fell into disrepair.

Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE pictured in 1939

Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE pictured in 1939

But permission to convert the building into 12 flats and retail space was granted in October – on the condition that the front of the building was left intact.

Sir Sydney said of the decision: “It is quite touching to find that the front facade of the old Luxor will be retained.”

Sir Sydney secured his first job at the Luxor before it even opened its doors as a cinema.

He said: “I was employed to clean up after the builders together with my mop, scrubbing brush and pail.

“You just had to start at the bottom claw your way up and hope for a bit of luck.”

At the age of 14, he became a trainee rewind boy – which involved rewinding 35mm reels of film from one spool to the other with a handle.

He said: “There is nothing lower in the projection box than that.”

But he survived the tough training of the role and went on to become a newsreel cameraman.

In 1953, he was one of an elite team given the honour of filming the Queen’s Coronation.

When a spring broke in the camera minutes before the start, his technical knowledge saved the day.

He also used his filming expertise to help produce blockbuster films including Oliver!, Gandhi and James Bond.

Over the years, Sir Sydney has held some of the most important jobs in the film industry.

He was appointed the chairman of BAFTA and was made the UK’s first film commissioner responsible for encouraging Hollywood filmmakers to make their films in Britain.

He was also awarded a CBE for services to the film industry and given a knighthood by Prince Charles.

Despite his success, Sir Sydney said he has never forgotten his roots in Lancing and said the building held ‘great sentimental value’ to him.

He said: “I may be one of the very few people still alive who worked at the Luxor when it opened.”

Councillor Brian Boggis said it was ‘good to hear his memories’.

“Local history and people’s memories are important, and our decision to insist on preserving the building will bring the facade of the building back to its former glory.”