CINEMAS OF IRELAND

Capitol Cinema

403 Antrim Road,

Belfast, BT15 3BG

Date opened: Saturday 9th November 1935

First film shown: ‘The Nitwits’

Date Closed: Saturday 11th January 1975

Architect: Thomas McLean

Original Seating Capacity: 1094

 

CAPITOL cinema, Belfast.

The Capitol cinema, which was on the Antrim Road at the corner of Alexandra Park Avenue, Belfast was the third of the new Michael Curran picture theatres to be erected in the city to the plans of architect Thomas McLean. It was opened by a Lady Turner, who congratulated the owners on the splendid building. The opening attractions on Saturday 9th November 1935 were the Wheeler and Woolsey comedy ‘The Nitwits’. The second feature was ‘By Your Leave’. Prior to the opening ceremony, a half hour’s musical programme was provided by a Mr F. Mohan and his orchestra.

Proceeds from the opening performance were donated to Belfast Newsboys’ Club. Refreshments were available from the first floor cafe, which had wide Windows overlooking the Antrim Road. The exterior was finished in a cream colour. Over the entrance there was a canopy in gold and red and the same colours were used for the entrance doors and display cases, both picked out in stainless steel. Grilles were in pale green and silver. The cinema was carpeted throughout and the press said that the tip-up arm chairs seats were extremely comfortable. The main entrance doors was on the corner. The porch had double swing doors, which prevented draughts getting into the foyer. The local press said the foyer was of ample size and had a handsome box office. Off it were cloakrooms for both sexes and a central door gave access to the auditorium.

Unlike the other Curran houses there was no dome at the Capitol. Neon lighting was supplied by the Liverpool Company Vidro Ltd, which was run by a Mr David Rowan. Furnishings, including Wilton carpet were supplied by the CO-OP Trading Company, High Street, Belfast. Glass was supplied by Campbell Brothers of Millfield, Belfast. They were also responsible for the wrought steel verandahs. Electrical installation was carried out by Curran Bros of Long Lane, Belfast. Terrazzo was employed in the foyer and staircases, and was executed by a Mr Crescenzo Fusiciardi of Belfast.

Seating was for around 1,100 and on the upper floor was a suite of offices, one of them used as a boardroom for the directors of the Curran group. The auditorium held around a thousand people and lighting was concealed behind the cornice. The local press said, Around the proscenium arch and in troughs flanking the large ventilating grilles on either side of It are other lamps, and though the auditorium can be brightly lit by these means, not a lamp is visable anywhere and glare is entirely absent.

It is said that at some point it was taken over by Rank. Through the 1950s it was still run by Curran cinemas. It was eventually demolished, making way for a supermarket. If anyone can tell us when Rank took over, we would love to hear from you.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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Lido Cinema

Shore Road,

 Belfast, BT15

 

Date opened: Saturday the 26th March 1955

First film shown: ‘Take The Stage’

Date Closed: During 1970

Architect: John McBride Neill  (1905-1974)

Original Seating Capacity: 1050

 

BELFAST was home to a great number of cinemas and in 1955 another was added to the list. The Lido was the 45th cinema to be opened there on Saturday the 26th March with a Charity Gala performance. The Lido Shore Road was the first new cinema in the city to be built since the second world war. The opening was performed by a Sir James Norritt, the former Lord Mayor. The opening saw a full house, and many stood at the back and along the sides at this 1050 seat hall, which was on one level. A special feature of its design was the special acoustic treatment of the back wall and ceiling. The cinema was run by Troxy Cinema Ltd, the managing director being a Mr Harry Wilton.

Before the opening film ‘Take the Stage’, a comedy western, there was a variety programme, which was opened by the Faulat Girl Pipers, under Pipe-Major H. Galbraith. He marched in, playing from the foyer and paraded down the aisles to the front of the cinema. Other performers included James Glenn, a tenor singer and comedian Frank Carson. Proceeds from the opening performance were divided between the Ulster Schools for the deaf and blind. These were Lisburn Road, St Brigid’s School for blind girls and junior boys Whiteabbey.

From Monday the 28th March ‘The Student Prince’ was screened. This was followed by Calamity Jane, from the Thursday. The local press said that the Lido was the first cinema in Belfast specially designed to accommodate the new wide screen, and the first impression one receives on entering the auditorium is the great width of the proscenium. Some representatives of the Variety Club of Ireland were in attendance. They included a Mr R Britten, assistant chief barker, Mr F Speeds and a Mr S Durbidge, members of the Fund Raising Committee. Architect was Mr JMB Neill. The local press said, Mr Neill has used his long experience in cinema design in an attempt to obtain the maximum comfort for patrons and at the same time keep construction costs within manageable bounds.

The main contractors were Sloan Brothers. They had been responsible for the building of a large number of cinemas in Northern Ireland. The cinema housed a large cafe-shop, which opened a few weeks after the cinema’s opening. It was described as an attractive, almost Continental feature. It was said that the Lido scheme has given this rather drab stretch of road an almost Continental aspect.

The cinema, didn’t have a long life, closing in 1970. Some sources say it was the first in Belfast to install Cinemascope. This is not so, as Cinemascope was first screened in the city at the Hippodrome from the 11th January 1954. The film screened was The Robe. The Lido was bought by the local Roman Catholic Community and became a church. Eventually it was demolished to make way for a new church.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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Strand Cinema

152-154 Hollywood Road,

 Belfast, BT4 1NY

Date opened: Saturday 7th December 1935

First film shown: “Bright Eyes”

Architect: John McBride Neill  (1905-1974)

Original Seating Capacity: 1170

On December the 7th 1935 one of Belfast’s luxury cinemas opened its doors. It was the Strand, which stood on Gelston’s corner, Holywood Road. It was designed by a Mr J. McBride Neill of Belfast, who also designed the Majestic, and had seating for 1170 – 270 of those in the balcony. These were supplied by C.R Harrison and sons Ltd , Newton-Le Willows. It was Belfast’s first suburban cinema to be run by Union Cinemas and was built in six months by Sloan brothers of Pilot Street Belfast. They built three cinemas in Belfast and built the Tonic cinema in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Proceeds from the first performance went to the Lord Mayor’s Coal Fund.

The Strand’s architect-
John McBride Neill  (1905-1974)

The cinema was opened by Sir Crawford McCullagh, the mayor. He said it would be a worthy acquisition to Strandtown and district. The cinema housed a cafe, which housed a soda fountain. The carpeting was similar to the auditoriums. In shape and size the cafe corrrsponded to the foyer below it. The local press said, unlike many cinemas built in years gone by there is no over decoration but the auditorium has something new to show in cinema wall decoration, at least in Ireland. The walls have a ground of waterproof plastic paint, on which is sprayed a texture of metallic paint. The colour scheme was carried out in monochromatic shades and the general effect was bright and fresh. The speckling of the sprayed metallic paint was considered most attractive.

STRAND CINEMA, Belfast. Proscenium & front stalls

The auditorium had a specially woven snake design, which was said to give a luxurious effect. The stage was equipped with a festoon curtain. The foyer was covered with terrazzo in bold bars of colour, grey, red, black and aluminium. The payback walls were were covered with white rubber and staybrite steel, which continued the modern note. The foyer was large and triangulate in shape and there was ample natural light from the long window running around the corner at the apex of the triangle. There were cloakrooms for both sexes open off the foyer. A Mr D.D.Young, president of the White Cinema Club, who presided said that from the stage the auditorium reminded him of a Transatlantic liner wending it’s way through the Ocean at night.

ABC Strand

Later, the cinema was taken over by ABC and they continued to operate it until it closed in 1983. In 1984 it became a live venue run by a Mr Ronnie Rutherford. In April 1988 it reverted back to cinema use with four screens. seating was for six hundred and forty two.
In 1999 it underwent a restoration bringing back many of its lost features and won an RIBA Architecture Award. In 2005 the cinema celebrated its seventieth birthday with a screening of A Night To Remember about the sinking of the Titanic. This was shown as part of the Belfast Film Festival. In 2013 it ceased as a commercial cinema and the Strand Arts Centre was established as a not for profit charitable venture. As well as films, it hosts many live events. The cinema is one of two remaining independent cinemas in Belfast, the other being the Queen’s Film Theatre. Seating at the Stand is now listed as seating six hundred and eight.

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk 

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Park Cinema

Oldpark Road and Torrens Avenue,

 Belfast, BT14

 

Date opened: Saturday 12th December 1936

First film shown: ‘The Three Musketeers”

Date Closed: 27th May 1972

Architect: Mr T. Eager

Original Seating Capacity: 1200

 

The Park cinema Oldpark Road and Torrens Avenue, Belfast was built on a triangular site and was one of a great number of cinemas in the city,opening its doors on Saturday 12th December 1936, with a Charity performance of ‘The Three Musketeers”. This was followed on Monday 14th December with Errol Flynn in ‘Captain Blood’. From the Thursday, ‘Follow The Fleet’ with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was screened.

Proceeds of the two opening performances went to the Lord Mayor’s Coal Fund. It was reported that the fund was going to be a record and the generous support given by cinema proprietors in the city was a big factor in that success. It was Belfast’s fortieth cinema. It was owned by Supreme Cinemas Ltd, and was opened by the mayor of Belfast Sir Crawford McCullagh.

The cinema was built in record time, taking only four months to construct. It was designed by a Mr T. Eager. Sir Crawford McCullagh said: “I opened the first picture House in Belfast a good many years ago when I was Sheriff and I have been opening others ever since.” He went on to congratulate the builders McIntyre Estates Co from the Antrim Road Belfast. On the same day the Park made its debut the Curzon and Broadway cinemas opened their doors. The stalls were approached directly from the lower foyer, which was on the large side. There were two staircases leading to the balcony lounge. Seating was for 1200 and all the seats were tip up. There was ample leg room provided with a gap of three feet between rows. The lower foyer had floor of Roman Stone terrazzo. Elsewhere the theatre was carpeted luxuriously and was coloured in a shade of rust red, which went with the golden brown of the upholstery of the seating, which was supplied by Lees, Hyman and Lees Ltd, Corporation Street Belfast.

Plastic paint was used extensively. The walls in the foyer were in shades of cream, gold and pink, relieved by horizontal lines of silver. The base of the walls were in darker tones, and horizontal lines of gilt were in contrast with the lines of silver above. The ceiling and the tabs were silver. The proscenium opening was flanked by grilles, each grille in turn being flanked by a tall panel, having decorative motifs and flutes. These were in gilt. The surrounding of the proscenium was heavily silvered.

The cinema was equipped with Holophane lighting and the use of gilt and silver tones on conjunction with the Holophane gave brilliant lighting effects. Lights placed along the front of the balcony projected their rays on to the silver ceiling, which reflected the light down into the auditorium.

Up in the operating box were Kaplan projectors and Ashcraft carbon arcs, supplied by Jack Roe. The cinema suddenly closed in 1971 and re-opened on the first of May1972, but was badly damaged due to the troubles at that time and closed for good. The building remained empty and later demolished. In 2018 it was a car park.

David A Ellis@chestercinemas.co.uk

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Windsor Cinema

Donegall Road,

Belfast, BT12

Date opened: Saturday 23rd March 1935.

First film shown: “Yes, Mr. Brown”, starring Jack Buchanan.

Date Closed: 1970

Architect: 

Original Seating Capacity: 1250

Windsor cinema

The Windsor cinema on the Donegal Road Belfast opened for business on Saturday 23rd March 1935. It had seating for 1,250 and would cater for people in an area that was a rapidly growing residential area, which was popularly known as the Bog meadows. Proceeds from the opening performance, which was ‘Yes, Mr Brown’ went to the Royal Victoria and Mater hospitals. It was stated that it was the widest cinema in the city, being sixty- two feet in breadth. The proscenium was constructed to give a beautiful rock garden effect. Steps led up to the screen, which had a sliding curtain of crimson silk.

The opening report states that the screen was made of perforated rubber. The cinema had its own electricity supply and much of the work was carried out by local labour. In 1970 the cinema closed and became a carpet warehouse. After a fire the building was demolished and in the late 1990s the site was occupied by a disable care centre.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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Forum Cinema

491-495 Crumlin Road,

Belfast, BT14 7GA

Date opened:  20th November 1937.

First film shown: “Walking on Air”.

Date Closed:  28th January 1967.

Architect:  J McBride Neill.

Original Seating Capacity: 1250

The Forum cinema

On the 20th November 1937 the Forum Belfast run by Irish Theatres Ltd opened. It was their fourteenth cinema, seven of them in the city of Belfast. It was Situated on the Crumlin Road, and opened with the film ‘Walking on Air’. This was supported by news, comedy shorts and a Popeye cartoon. Films were shown for three days. The Monday after the Saturday opening, ‘Men Are Not Gods’ was screened.

It was the last cinema to open in the city before the outbreak of WW2. Proceeds from the first performance went to the Lord Mayor’s Coal Fund and other charities. It was described as a wonder cinema but had no balcony. It was another design by architect J McBride Neill. Building work was carried out by Sloan Brothers of Belfast. Seating, supplied by CD Harrison and Son was 1250.

The auditorium decoration was simple. Walls and the ceiling were sprayed in textured plastic paint. On the side walls was an abstract design in gold rose pink and russet. The proscenium was wide and had a surround of Reeded fibrous plaster treated in gold. The entrance foyer was forty feet wide and was approached through a vestibule and two lines of glass swing doors. The floor was terrazzo with sunk mat wells The foyer floor was covered in rubber. The auditorium ran parallel to the main road and the cafe was entered by an adjoining shop.

Power for everything in the building was provided by a generator on the premises. There were two oil engines each of fifty horse power. The electrical installation was carried out by Belfast firm Lewers, Carroll and company. They specialised in wiring cinemas.

When the cinema was twenty one years old, the chief projectionist Michael Bunting was guest of honour at the party. He was introduced on stage by the manager Mr N McLorinan, having completed twenty one years with them. Another one introduced was Mrs Margaret Maguire, who was present at the cinema’s first birthday and guessed the correct weight of a cake. The Forum closed on the 28th January 1967 and was used as a social club. In the 1990s the social club shared the property with the ABC credit union.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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