IN MOST ways - quality of sound, quality of picture, even comfort of the seats - cinemas are no doubt much better these days than they were back in the Fifties and Sixties. They have to be because they face so much more competition, from TV and, now, live streaming and downloads. We live in an entertainment age.

But has going to the pictures lost a bit of the magic it used to have?

Reader John Zimnoch, who now lives in Osbaldwick, grew up in Rose Street in the post-war decades when York seemed to have a cinema on just about every street corner. As a boy, he went to almost all of them. Here, he recalls the days of usherettes, Saturday morning kids' shows - and couples snogging on the seats in the back row...

"I have no recollection of my first cinema visit, which would have been The Scala in Fossgate (later a furniture store then restaurant). This had probably the grandest entrance of any York cinema with its lovely colourful columns, like some noble's stately home.

"The reason I don't recall the visit is because I was a bit too young - still unborn in fact! My dad was overseas waiting for demobilisation to come home and marry mum. It took two years. Because of the shame Granny Chippy used to run mum from Layerthorpe to Fossgate on Sunday nights hoping nobody would notice my presence in the womb!

"I saw Quo Vadis in The Grand in Clarence Street, with Robert Taylor the handsome heartthrob hero and Peter Ustinov the nasty Nero. An easy walk from our Rose Street home The Grand was more commonly known as the bug 'utch or fleapit, being very rundown and soon closed.

"The Clifton saw frequent visits, with snogging couples enjoying the two rows of couch seats at the rear. Sighs instead of Bingo roars, much quieter than today.

"The other cinema that was later to become a Bingo parlour was the Rialto in Fishergate. This was a longer walk but was where we saw Bardot on a beach and a documentary with nude French people on an island. We couldn't see what the excitement was - the French can keep their movies!

"Where the Rialto was great was seeing the Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis and groups like the Searchers, Marty Wilde, Freddie and the Dreamers, Bobby Vee and lots more.

"The Tower Cinema was where we saw Lawrence of Arabia - an amazing movie with the wide-screen projection, made all the better by Tiny Barnard standing in a commissionaire's uniform to greet you on the steps, dressed like the Duke of Edinburgh at the Coronation.

"There was the Picture House in Coney Street, now Boots. But best of all were the Regal and the Odeon, which had kids shows on Saturday mornings. It was total chaos, with me and my pals running along, under, and over all the seats, and lining up for ice cream from the usherettes - who would probably be usherpeople today. Poor kids would send one in, and his mates would go to the emergency exits at the side and when the lights went down open the door and let them in.

"My favourite cinema of all though was the Regal in Piccadilly. There we would see Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon in the serial, or maybe Hopalong Cassidy with Gabby Hayes - all goofy and no teeth - then a Tweetie pie cartoon followed by the main movie, all stage coaches, cavalry and whooping Indians.

"The after treat was down the underground bogs on Parliament Street, near Barclays, to spend a penny - not on the toilet but on the massive weighing machine."

John Zimnoch