Maghull, L31 2PH
Owners: Maghull Cinemas Ltd, controlled by Leslie Blond.
Architect: Alexander Webber.
Original capacity: Stadium 1400 seats.
Date opened: Wednesday 28th September 1955.
Opened by: Douglas Glover, MP.
Opening film: “There’s No Business Like Showbusiness” starring Ethel Merman and Marilyn Monroe.
Rebranded as Astra Entertainment Centre: 5th June 1975.
Final General Manager: Geoff Mander.
Date Closed: Tuesday 4th April 1995.
Demolished. Site now in use as a supermarket.
The Albany, Northway Magull designed by Alexander Webber in the stadium style, was a late starter as far as cinema construction is concerned. Most cinemas before the coming of the multiplex were built from the nineteen twenties through to the late thirties.
It was reported in the local press that it was the first cinema to be built without the traditional proscenium and the screen was fifty feet wide. The wide auditorium seated 1400 customers.
Instead of radiators round the walls there were hot water pipes in channels let into the floor under the rows of seats. Oil fired equipment was time controlled and the temperature thermostatically controlled.
Another feature was that the manager could look into the theatre from his office through a shuttered window which was situated at the rear of the auditorium. He could also view into the foyer area.
The cinema costing £70,000 to build was run by Magull Cinemas Ltd, controlled by Leslie Blond, who also ran the Phoenix, opening 1951 in Wallasey and three others. Construction of the cinema began in November 1954. Work, at one point was delayed due to serious flooding, but opened on time.
Ormskirk MP Douglas Glover was asked to formally open the cinema at a Gala Evening which was witnessed by a capacity audience on Wednesday 28th September 1955.
The opening attraction was “There’s No Business Like Showbusiness” starring Ethel Merman and Marilyn Monroe.
Click on the above frame to watch the title song of “Theres No Business Like Showbusiness”.
It was stated that three systems were fitted, Vistavision, Metroscope and Cinemascope, no mention of wide screen. This would appear to be misleading as cinemascope and Metroscope would be projected the same way. Original Vistavision was run horizontal and was short lived. Most cinemas, including the Albany would show it in wide screen, like other wide screen films. So in reality there would only be two ratios at the Albany, wide screen and cinemascope. However, these statements would impress the uninitiated.
Later it was taken over by the Hutchinson Leisure Group from Burnley. They closed it as a single screen on the 1st February 1975 with the film “Enter The Dragon”. Two mini cinemas, each seating 193 were built in the former raised section of the auditorium. The front part of the stalls became a 500 seat bingo club.
It was renamed Astra and opened as the Astra Entertainment Centre on the 5th June 1975 with screen 1 showing “Man About the House” and screen 2 screening “Freebie and the Bean”.
In June 1986 Apollo Leisure Group took control.
In 1991 bingo ceased and the area was converted into a 300 seat cinema. This made its debut on the 20th December 1991 with the film “Assault on Precinct 13”.
The cinema venue closed on the Tuesday 4th April 1995. Manager for the final nine years of the building’s life was Geoff Mander, who also managed the Phoenix and the Palladium, in Liverpool.
The building was demolished and a supermarket was built on the site.
David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk