This week I lead you down not the Yellow Brick Road but the red carpet to royal film premieres. These occasions have taken place at cinemas in Leicester Square since the 1940s, although they seem to attract far less attention these days.

I started attending in the 1980s but before you think it was a great freebie I must stress that as these events are in aid of charity I always paid for my seat. By the 1990s the cost of a seat in the balcony a couple of rows behind Princess Di, Her Majesty The Queen, or whoever was representing the Royal Family would cost £250 from memory. Plus, in order to qualify for such seats you were obliged to attend each year regardless how awful the chosen film.

I sat through some stinkers but my favourite remains Titanic, which was the only one I attended that got a standing ovation - much to the pleasure of the stars attending.

Read more: The best film made about the Titanic

Titanic cruising to the Oscars?

One film that I felt only got a polite applause was the Star Wars movie The Phantom Menace. Due to the thousands of fans gathered, my driver had to drop off my friend Sean and myself outside a pub just outside the square. It was an unsettling to have to walk along the created corridor, so I suggested we time it right. After all who wants thousands of people looking at you, thinking who the hell is that bald old man? So I timed our long walk so we were few paces behind Robbie Williams, and naturally everybody looked at him, which was great.

The only problem with the Odeon was you had to walk down the balcony stairs on exiting just as the other patrons were leaving the stalls and naturally looking up to spot stars. In front of us was Mark Hamill and I said to myself 'please don't stop at the base of the stairs to sign autographs' as I knew what would happen. It became a scrummage and the rest of us could not get past, hence the waiting time for our cab went up somewhat, but then again it was fun.

Leicester Square. Photo: Pixabay

Leicester Square. Photo: Pixabay

Richard Todd told me he was invited to attend the premiere of his own film The Hasty Heart, having been nominated for an Oscar. Again there were thousands of fans outside. He was under contract to Elstree Studios and was later 'amused' to find out the studio paid him less than the lighting camerman on his film.

Cliff Richard told me he also encountered a problem with the crowds when he was invited to the premiere of one of his Elstree-made film musicals. In those days cars dropped off the stars outside the Odeon. On this occasion the police were so concerned about crowd control they waved his car on so he never got to attend!

The last premiere I attended at the Odeon in which cars were still allowed to let us be dropped outside was for the film Chaplin. The problem was when the cars returned in no order to pick you up when the film ended, but still with a large crowd outside to star spot. A chap would stand outside with a loudspeaker saying "car for Joan Collins," "car for Rod Stewart," and so on. Naturally they got great applause. I was waiting in the foyer area and saw David Attenborough and asked if he enjoyed this. He replied with a smile "I would rather be in the jungle". Then the voice rang out 'car for Paul Welsh' and silence descended on the crowd. That put me in my place. Until next time take care.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios