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Arnolfini - est 1961

We are sorry but we have had to cancel our Cinema Rediscovered events this weekend due to a team shortage in the theatre at Arnolfini. The Galleries, Bookshop and Harbourside Bar plan to remain open.

The Open Road will go ahead as scheduled over at the Watershed.

Who was William Friese-Greene? will now be taking place online as a free event. All bookers will be sent a link and offered a refund and rest assured that refunds will be issued next week once the festival is over.

Cinema Rediscovered hope to reschedule The Maltese Falcon later in the year, please keep an eye on their website for details.

Please visit for the rest of the programme available in and around Bristol.

If you had tickets for Cinema Rediscovered events, the Box Office will be in touch to offer you to arrange a refund next week.

For all enquiries relating to Cinema Rediscovered please email


The story of Bristol-born film pioneer William Friese-Greene is told in The Magic Box, which was made for the Festival of Britain 70 years ago to celebrate British ingenuity.  

Based on Ray Allister’s book, Friese-Greene, Close-Up of an Inventor, the film offers fascinating insights into the pursuit of a dream – in this case to invent moving images – and the impact this has on the inventor’s family (Friese-Greene died virtually penniless thanks to his obsession). It’s also a defence of cinema as an art form for the people.  

With a stellar cast and a brilliant production team – the film was made by the Boulting brothers and had a screenplay by Eric Ambler – it has been attacked as inaccurate. Although it plays with the facts as all biopics do, it provides a vivid representation of Friese-Greene, both the man and the way he lived his life. And it doesn’t claim that Friese-Greene invented moving pictures; as he says in the film, he was just one of the pioneers.  

Terrifically entertaining with an engaging lead role played by Robert Donat, The Magic Box puts forward a great story through a cast of leading actors and actresses. There were cameo appearances by many British stars, including Laurence Olivier playing the policeman who becomes the first member of the public to see Friese-Greene’s motion pictures projected on a screen.  

Director: John Boulting 

Cast: Renée Asherson, Richard Attenborough, Robert Beatty, Martin Boddey.

With an introduction by film director and historian Peter Domankiewicz. 

Peter Domankiewicz is a director and writer for feature films and television. He became fascinated by the Friese-Greene story whilst living in Bristol in the 1990s and has undertaken the most substantial research on Friese-Greene to date. He writes about William Friese-Greene on his blog William Friese-Greene and Me. Follow him on Twitter @Domankiewicz 


This screening is part of Bristol Ideas’ #BristolFilm2021 in collaboration with South West Silents as part of Cinema Rediscovered 2021. 


Opening Up the Magic Box – a heritage element of the Film 2021 programme – marks the centenary of the death of Bristol-born film pioneer William Friese-Greene and the 125th anniversary of the first public cinema screening in Bristol, which took place at the Tivoli on 8 June 1896, as well as celebrating Bristol – a UNESCO City of Film since 2017.


This event is supported by