Liverpool, L9 8AN
Owners: The Orrell Park Picture House Ltd.
Architects: Williams and Kelly of Liverpool.
Main Building Contractors: Ernest Spencer of Walton, and Walter Spencer of Aintree.
Capacity: Stadium seating Total= 1450.
Date opened: Monday 1st September 1930 at 6.30pm.
Opening film: “The Cohens and Kellys in Scotland” starring Charlie Murray and George Sidney.
CinemaScope installed, first film in the new format shown: Sunday 6th February 1955. “The Robe”, starring Richard Burton and Jean Simmonds
Date Closed: Saturday 2nd February 1974.
Final film shown: “The Mackintosh Man”, starring Paul Newman, Dominique Sanda and James Mason.
Building extant: Segmented into various retail interests.
The Orrell Park Picture House Ltd had been formed with a desire to secure a prominent site in this small residential area of northern Liverpool, between the larger neighbouring districts of Aintree and Walton-on-the-Hill, within easy access to a bustling shopping thoroughfare and the Orrell Park station. A plot of land was secured bordering Moss Lane and Victoria Drive, approximately 4 miles from the city centre.
Liverpool architects, Williams and Kelly, were commissioned to design a large, purpose-built cinema that would be equipped with sound from day one. A “Super Cinema” with seating for 870 patrons in the stalls area and a further 580 accommodated in the balcony making a total capacity of 1450 seats.
The local building contractors were Ernest Spencer of Walton, and Walter Spencer of Aintree.
Approaching the building that was soon to be known as The Carlton Cinema, it was evident that the architects had succeeded in producing a “Super Cinema” that was specifically designed for the perfect reproduction of sound films. It was claimed to be one of the finest halls, having been described in the October 1930 issue of the Trade Press as “a very satisfying example of suburban picture theatre design”.
With frontages on two roads. The main entrance was cleverly angled onto Moss Lane, while the much longer and smart side elevation was along Victoria Drive. The large auditorium block was set back at an angle to the main road, neatly concealed behind the front elevations.
The modern frontage of rustic brickwork was relieved with blocked white stone coping and three high arched windows set within a rectangular border of white stone.
The angled, stone bordered main entrance of three sets of doors was lacking a canopy. Large poster frames above the entrance and along the sides of the walls advertised the films showing. A neon lit sign that simply stated Carlton, in a Trajan style of lettering was set just below the roof coping on the entrance elevation.
Below the balcony were two spacious waiting lounges, located off the main entrance foyer, thus eliminating the need for large queues forming outside. These lounges had terrazzo floors with inlaid central motifs framed with fine ebonite borders. Running parallel to each other, they were separated inline with stalls or balcony queues. The dividing wall had cut away half arched apertures. Staircases led off these lounges giving access to the rear of the stalls and to the rear of the balcony.
The auditorium was of a semi stadium layout. The front of the balcony, which did not extend over the stalls, was approximately 4’ above the back seats of the stalls, with no access between the two levels. At this point there was a definite division between the balcony and stalls areas.
The architects had perfectly worked out the rake of the stall floor and balcony stepping in order that even the shortest of customers would not be at a disadvantage from viewing the picture and the tallest would have plenty of leg room.
The auditorium walls were of textured plaster, painted with plastic paint in subtle colours that matched the foyers decoration. Ten small windows set upon high, brought in daylight when required, these were thickly curtained off during opening hours. Shallow fibrous plaster borders in a ribbed design and piers divided the walls and the barrel-vaulted ceiling into bays. Large bordered wall panels featuring a scallop design in plaster added interest. A wooden dado ran the lower reaches of the auditorium walls. The splay walls had illuminated ornate grillwork panels.
A huge embossed sunburst design was placed centrally over the 38’ wide proscenium. Ten large pendant lights, together with complementing wall light fittings gave adequate illumination over this large auditorium. The original screen size measured 23’x17.6’, with a distance of 125’ to the projector. The projection room was equipped with Kalee projectors and Western Electric sound system.
The Carlton Cinema opened on Monday 1st September 1930 at 6.30pm. The film chosen for the Gala Opening was “The Cohens and Kellys in Scotland” starring Charlie Murray and George Sidney.
Independently owned and managed throughout its time as a cinema exhibitor, the Carlton thrived on a large and loyal patronage, who enjoyed the comfort of this well-maintained cinema, with a steady flow of quality film entertainment, mainly ABC & GB product. Following the 1940s heyday of cinema admissions, the Carlton began to lose out to other forms of competition.
Click the above frame to play the trailer of “The Robe”.
To combat this, CinemaScope was installed. A screen that now measured 32’ wide was installed for the first feature in the new format, “The Robe”, starring Richard Burton and Jean Simmonds, was shown on Sunday 6th February 1955.
With the general decline in UK cinema admissions advancing during the 1950s and 1960s, the Carlton began a cost reduction policy of restricting matinee performances. By June of 1966, just one complete evening programme was on offer, a policy that many considered drove more patrons away from the suburban cinemas to screens that ran continuously. Eventually the Carlton Cinema closed on Saturday 2nd February 1974.
The final feature screened was “The Mackintosh Man”, starring Paul Newman, Dominique Sanda and James Mason. The Coral Leisure Group opened a bingo club on the premises. A false ceiling was installed in the auditorium.
Bingo remained in the building and the Carlton Bingo Club continued in business until March 2020, a victim of the decline of bingo hall attendances and the forced closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Various retail businesses now operate in the divided structure that was once “a very satisfying example of suburban picture theatre design”.