St. Austell, PL25 5QL
Date opened: Monday 22nd February 1926.
First film shown: ‘The Gold Rush’ starring Charlie Chaplin.
Owner: The Capitol Company/Noel Rhys.
Construction cost: £15.000+.
Original Seating Capacity: 800.
Buildings present use: Capitol Bingo.
The Capitol cinema St Autsell, Mount Charles, opened on Monday 22nd February 1926. A large crowd was present to welcome in the new picture palace. The opening attraction was Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush. The theatre also housed a cafe and a dance hall. It was run by a Mr Noel Rhys, who was a former journalist. He was the managing director of the Capitol Company.
A comedian by the name of George Graves was booked to open the theatre but fell ill and was replaced by a Mr J W Higman. The cost to build was over fifteen thousand pounds and had seating was for eight hundred. It was stated that the stage could accommodate one hundred and fifty people and the dance hall two hundred. The proscenium was 36 ft wide and a large 40ft deep. It wasn’t long before the cinema had new ownership.
In 1927 a Mr L A Thomson took over and it was set big improvements would take place. Thomson was the managing director of the St James Picture Theatre in Victoria, London, which was nicknamed The Millionaires Theatre. A Mr George Taylor was appointed manager. In April 1929 ownership changed again when Harry J. Watkins Ltd took over. This was from April the 6th.
Watkins reopened it as a super entertainment house in which pictures will be varied from time to time by the visits of theatrical companies. The theatre had an orchestra called the Capitol orchestra conducted by a Mr E Beresford. Watkins’ general manager was a Mr Harry Roderson. When sound arrived it was advertised as Cornwall’s Premier “Talkie” Picture Theatre and it was installed with the Western Electric sound system. The first sound film was shown on Monday May 12th 1930.
The first sound offering was ‘The Singing Fool’.
Apart from film, live shows were occasionally on offer, and on October 12th 1953 Elsie and Doris waters, known as Gert and Daisy made their first appearance in Cornwall. The theatre was equipped with six dressing rooms. In 1945 there was another ownership change when Capitol (St Austell) Ltd took control.
On the 12th September 1954 3D arrived on the new Miracle Mirror Wide Screen. It was stated that the Capitol was the only theatre in Cornwall to screen it. The first 3D picture to be shown was Charge at Feather River. Viewing specs were on sale separately from admission charges at sixpence (two and a half pence).
From the 3rd November 1963 the Capitol had bingo on Sunday nights. Another take over was by Classic on the 8th January 1978.
The cinema went over to full time bingo and remains in operation, known as Capitol Bingo.
David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk