Simplex E7 for the Regent Christchurch

A small team of volunteers, including PPT members have just installed a working cinema projector in the Regent Centre in Christchurch, When digital projection was installed the 35mm Strong projector and its associated platter were quickly side lined and then disposed of. One of the reasons was that the platter was in the way of the new installation. The Strong projector and console looked a bit incongruous without it.

The concrete plinth, on which it stood, thwarted all efforts to smash it up which was good as it turned out because what it needed was a nice pre War projector on it complete with proper spool boxes. What better than a Simplex E7 on RCA 1042 sound head. The board at the Regent agreed with this plan as it would be an educational tool if installed correctly and would a talking point during the cinema tours which take place from time to time and anyway all projection boxes worthy of the name should have a proper projector, even if it’s rarely used now.

Our machine was sourced from a number of locations, a preview theatre, another cinema, a film lab, private individuals and of course the PPT.

One of the problems with projector restoration is the shortage of couplers to connect the sound head to the picture head, in this case a large fibre gear and its associated shaft. I have to thank the late Dick Prather of Portland in the USA, for supplying this, a man I only ever communicated with via e mail and the telephone but who was a mine of information regarding Simplex machines and who was ever willing to share that knowledge with me.

If you have all the bits, it doesn’t take long to build up a machine, but if you want it to work then the wiring is more problematical. So it was over to ex Westrex and Odeon engineer Bob Dobson to ensure that this area complied with all the safety rules.

The Orcon rectifier was the only single phase type that we could locate, we would have preferred a T&R, but where have they all gone? Actually the Orcon required quite a lot of work by Bob and me including replacement of the diodes, three out of the four of which had failed.  Getting it into the projection box, up two flights of stairs, was a lot of work too.  Below, the team take a well-earned rest after their exertions.

The AEI lamp house has a 1.5Kw xenon lamp installed but we are hoping to upgrade to a 2Kw in the near future. It would however improve light output a lot if we could source a new mirror as the current one has certainly seen better days.

The finished machine comes complete with a brass plate. J Frank Brockliss were for many years the UK agents for American Simplex equipment as they were for the Peerless ‘Magnarc’ lamp house. Thanks to long time PPT member Gerald Hooper for donating it.

The Regent for most of its life as a cinema had two Kalee 11 machines with Kalee ‘Vulcan’ arc lanterns, Western Electric sound heads were installed in the 1950’s. In more recent times, as the Regent Centre, it has had in quite quick succession, BT-H, Philips, Westar and Strong machines. So now that the Simplex is finished we are recreating a Kalee 11 and hopefully this additional exhibit will enhance the educational aspect of the project.

Restoration History


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