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Sweet Savoy

Sweet Savoy

The smell of popcorn, the sweetheart seats and the cheapest tickets in town – Nottingham's Savoy cinema in Lenton has been a regular stomping ground for generations of students at work and play.

Best friends Tilly Stone, a third year sociology student, and Martha Baker (Biology, 2017), first visited the Savoy Cinema together when they were six years old. In the intervening 20 years, this quirky 1930s cinema has remained in their lives, providing both entertainment and income through part-time jobs, in a tale familiar to many alumni. 

"I worked there for six years and it felt like a University family," said Tilly. "All our flat mates worked there too so our house was like a Savoy shrine with empty popcorn bags, an old popcorn warmer and a cardboard cut-out of the American actor, The Rock."

Did you know?

  • The Savoy is the only surviving pre-war cinema in Nottingham.
  • It was the first cinema in the UK to install a licensed bar.
  • It opened in 1935 with the Dick Powell film Flirtation Walk – at the time there were 52 cinemas operating in the city!

"Students and families are the mainstay of our audience," explains Paul Scotton, Savoy General Manager. "It's lovely when former Nottingham students come back and pop in to look around – I think they're surprised we're still going!"

The only surviving pre-war cinema in the city, it remains dear to many. It was a cheap night out – still only £4.75 for students – and the famous sweetheart seats were the perfect setting for a family pack of M&Ms and a Saturday night smooch. Although the art deco exterior remains the same, there are now three refurbished screens and the numbers are annually on the up. 

"My claim to fame is that I know how to set up a film and show it," said Tilly. "I'd get a hard drive in the post and realise that I was holding the latest release before anyone else locally had seen it." 

While usherettes have long been absent from the big cinema chains, for some alumni, the midriff tray packed with ice creams and choc ices was a reality. 

"Selling the ice cream during the interval was my favourite part of the job," said Rachel Doran (Classical Civilisation and English, 2003). "Theme nights were the best, when the bar would be full of students in tuxedos watching James Bond, or a group dressed in fishnets and wigs for Rocky Horror Show. On quiet afternoons the bar was a great place to revise. 

"But it wasn't just a job. The Savoy was the place where I met my husband – we now have two children – so it will always be special to me."

The Savoy Cinema in the past


Top six at the flicks

From big-budget blockbusters to weepy rom-coms, generations of Nottingham students have flocked to the Savoy to catch the latest release. Do you remember these hits from your cinematic era?


The Sound of Music (1965)
101 Dalmatians (1961)
The Jungle Book (1967)
Dr Zhivago (1965)
The Graduate (1967)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)


Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Jaws (1975)
The Exorcist (1973)
Grease (1978)
The Sting (1973)
Animal House (1978) 



E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Batman (1989)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Ghostbusters (1984)


Titanic (1997)
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Jurassic Park (1993)
The Lion King (1994)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Independence Day (1996)



Avatar (2009)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Shrek 2 (2004)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Spider-Man (2002)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)


Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Jurassic World (2015)
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
Rogue One: A Star War’s Story (2016)
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Finding Dory (2016)       

The Savoy Cinema today

The Usherette's story

"I worked at the Savoy from 2001-2003, along with some of my friends, housemates and future husband. As far as student jobs go, it was pretty great – free cinema tickets each week and unlimited popcorn! 

"I often worked in the bar, taking orders for interval drinks and pulling pints for some of our favourite local characters. Theme nights were the best, when the bar would be full of students in tuxedos watching James Bond or dressed in fishnets and wigs for the Rocky Horror Show. We sold tickets at the front desk (a long time before online booking!) and on busy weekends, the queue would stretch all the way around the block. 

"I think my favourite job was selling interval ice creams. For long films, like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, the reel had to be changed so we'd have an interval. We had the traditional style trays that you hang over your shoulders and filled them with ice creams – it really felt like we were an old cinema in the 1940s."

Rachel Doran (Classical Civilisation and English, 2003) 

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