A look back at a Milton Keynes landmark: The story of The Point

The opening of The Point, in 1985
The opening of The Point, in 1985

To some, Milton Keynes was a new town with a concrete outlook, something that was looked down upon.

But in the early days, just as today, MK sidestepped the sneers and sniggers and concentrated on being an innovative, forward thinking sort of a place.

Charles today - still leading in the industry

Charles today - still leading in the industry

And that was certainly the case when it came to welcoming the country’s first multiplex cinema. For a while The Point was the most successful movie house in the country too.

The story of the multiplex began stateside, with Missouri based entertainment magnate Stanley Durwood.

His company AMC built the first four-screen multiplex in the 1960s, and followed that with a six-screen the same decade.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Stanley began looking to repeat the success on this side of the Atlantic.

The Brasserie at The Point                              pic: Charles J Wesoky

The Brasserie at The Point pic: Charles J Wesoky

Decades later, and the proposal‘to build and operate an entertainment centre on a specific parcel of ground in the central business district,’ of town was in place.

The proposal submitted in 1983 began to take shape in late October 1984, which is when Charles J. Wesoky, at the time working as international managing director for the Eastern Division of AMC, arrived in town.

Building Europe’s first fully integrated entertainment hub here was ambitious enough, but work began when UK cinema attendances were falling to their worst ever figures.

“UK cinema admissions were at an all time low of about 52 million – less than one visit per year, per populace...”

But Charles and his force were so sure of success that even before the ribbon had been cut and The Point declared open, further sites were being sought for more multiplexes in the UK.

“The attendance goal was for 760,000 visitors in the first year,” Charles recalls.

“The Point did 1,050,000; more than any cinema in the UK for the previous 15 years, including Leicester Square.

The buzz around the illuminating pyramid was something else and the eyes of the media were firmly fixed to

this futuristic looking fun factory.

But why a ziggurat?

“The limitation of the land parcel size that MKDC were offering made for a challenging design to fit in all the leisure and entertainment we

had agreed in our presentation.

“The architect had to come up with a solution to integrate all the elements so it appeared to be one building unit.

“The ziggurat, or pyramid, was an excellent solution.”

You will have to go a long way to find a more experienced executive in the international cinema industry than Charles.

In a career almost 50 years long, his other credits include periods as an executive for Columbia Pictures Distribution and Warner Bros. Distribution. He has been at the helm of more than 250 cinemas around the world.

No matter who the star on the big screen is, there is every chance that the screen itself is only there because of Charles’ tenacity and foresight.

The Point opened in a blaze of publicity on November 25, 1985. It’s a date Charles remembers well.

“I can still see the young excited faces of hundreds of kids running towards us to purchase tickets and going to the concession stand.”

The Point was a beacon for Milton Keynes. But in 2017 it cuts a decidedly forlorn shape in the landscape.

The last film showed on February 26, 2015, and the iconic structure is doomed - demolition is ahead.

Despite a gloriously successful career Charles always kept an eye on our pyramid, even contacting executives ahead of its 25th birthday, with a view to celebrating the event.

“They had no interest,” he says.

He understands the reasons for the closure, but feels a better effort could have been made to maintain the structure.

And he remains proud of the role he played in bringing the mulitplex to the UK.

“The Point was a first generation multiplex 30 years ago. “Its significance in the revitalisation of the cinema industry at that time was not only the biggest factor for further investment in the new complexes in the UK and Europe, but also one that completely changed the landscape for film production and distribution internationally.”

> For the full feature and images visit www.totalmk.co.uk