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The Compton

I was walking past the Reel Cinema on my way home and wondered what the situation with the building was. I had heard rumours for months that it was closing down and wanted to find out more. I contacted the council, cinema societies and the cinema themselves to discover more information. I found out that the building was owned by the council and there were application plans for it to be demolished and for new flats to be built on it’s land. At the last minute I changed my Final Major Project to work the Reel into my brief, the building needed saving and perhaps I could come up with a plan to do just that.


The building dates back to 1938 and is the last remaining picture house in Plymouth to still be running and standing since the war. I spoke to many people who had fond memories of the cinema and then came in contact with a group who are trying to put together a plan to repurpose the building. I joined in with several of their meetings and realised that they needed visuals to make an impact. The building is massive and it could have many outcomes and purposes, but I decided to create one idea to show that the building could be successful. I played around with ideas of nightclubs, restaurants etc but decided that the most obvious choice as it is set up as a cinema already would be to do a re-brand. The Reel cinema currently has no USP and has competition from Vue Cinema and the new cinema to be built in Bretonside. I decided that it would need something to make it unique and therefore came up with the idea of a themed cinema. Since the building was most popular in the 40s I looked into picture houses from that era, started asking people that remembered childhood cinema memories in the 1940s and visiting other themed cinemas. I wanted the cinema to show blockbusters but to be able to show old classics and have themed dress up evenings. I wanted the branding to show subtle hints of  1940s design, and I would achieve this by using typography that was heavily used in the 40s and picking out similar colour palettes.


I had an idea and a vision, but no name. I started researching into the building discovering that the Beatles and T-Rex had played there, but more importantly there was an organ that the BBC broadcasted from in the 50s called a ‘Compton Organ’. The organ had to be taken out of the building several years ago due to the detrimental state of the building, the owner had said however that if the Reel is restored the organ could be rehoused again. The name ‘Compton’ jumped out at my instantly and I followed through with this name for the re-brand of the cinema.


I created many assets including brand-guidelines, posters, stationary, stamps, food packaging, pencils, gift cards, uniforms and tickets. I was pleased with the result of the branding and found it fitting to my proposal. I knew however, that I wanted to push my idea further than just creating branding. I wanted to get people talking about the Reel building and the proposed plans for it to be demolished, so I put on an event. The event was a 1940’s themed evening in which I showed Casablanca in a cinema screen, gave away prosecco, branded popcorn and personalised invites. Roughly 40 people attended and it was a great night, I also made money for donations to the Reel Cinema group to help them with their mission in acquiring the building. I collaborated with a videographer and had fun elements such as a custom snapchat filter and an on-site bar. The event raised awareness for the building and got people talking which is the most important thing. I wanted to create a video to show to the council, to prove to them that there is room for businesses like this in Plymouth and not only concrete blocks.


The Compton is only one idea, the building could be repurposed as pretty much anything, the most important thing is that the building and beautiful architecture within remain standing.

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