Chester, CH1 2HA
Date opened – 20th December 1915
Seating capacity (balcony & stalls) 870 seats
Architects: Minshull & Muspratt Partnership
Date closed – 29th April 1961
Building extant. Internally restructured for retail use (Superdrug). Facade remains.
The Music Hall had the most diverse history of Chester’s cinema buildings (read David Ellis’s account in history). It had two entrances. The Werburgh Street entrance was the main entrance, whilst the Northgate Street entrance was only used to admit customers to the stalls when business warrantied it. Normally, this entrance was used as one of the exits.
A small, narrow auditorium and small screen, with the sound echoing around the walls due to poor acoustics made it one of the least popular cinema venues. The projection room was tiny, and can still be identified above the Werburgh Street entrance to Superdrug which occupies the building.
Operating as a cinema opposite the Chester Cathedral, with all the additional red tape imposed, it was to be expected that little or no signage or publicity material was allowed at the entrance. A far cry as to what we see along St Werburgh Street today!Just two display frames either side of the entrance doors drew you attention to a cinema being there.
William Edward Mulvey was manager of the Chester Music Hall from 1915 until he retired in 1949. Previously he had worked at the Empire Flint, North Wales. He was born in 1887 and went to the Music Hall in 1915 age twenty-eight.
Mr Mulvey started his working life as a barristers clerk before moving into the coal business. A Walter Baird, who was a friend of Mr Mulvey and was managing director of the Empire, offered him the job as manager of the cinema.
He first took on the job for six months on a salary of thirty shilling (£1.50) per week. The company provided him with a railway contract enabling him to visit trade shows in Liverpool, sometimes being three a day. This was on the understanding that if his worst week in the six month period exceeded the last manager’s best week they would guarantee him £3 per week, plus a commission of 10 per cent on takings after deducting normal expenses.
He stayed at the Empire for four years and averaged a dividend of twenty-five percent a year. It was through Jack White, another friend that he became manager of the Music Hall cinema, Chester.
In his early days at the cinema seats for film shows were 3d, 4d and 6d (two and a half new pence). George Robey and Vesta Tilly were some of the many celebrities who performed ‘flying matinees’, when apparently the 4d seats were cushioned and became a whopping 7s and sixpence (thirty seven and a half pence).
Mr Mulvey retired from the cinema in 1949 and summed up his cinema career by saying: “Cinema management is always full of unexpected experiences, but taken as a whole it has been a grand profession, which I would not have exchanged for any other.”
Mr Mulvey died in 1972 at the age of eighty-five. He was a Freeman of the city of Chester.
David A Ellischestercinemas
Peter Stevens writes ~
I’m putting together a page for my family archive. My grandfather was Arthur Stevens [originally from Cardiff] who moved to Chester in 1941 because Cardiff was being heavily bombed. He is pictured outside what my Dad referred to as the ‘Music Hall’ in Chester. The film is 1957 on the IMDB. Can you confirm the date the photograph was taken please?
David A Ellis confirms the date ~
The film was screened at the Music Hall from Monday 21st July 1958. The main feature was Happy is the Bride. ~ David A Ellis.
Peter ~ I bet they were going for the main feature ‘Happy Is The Bride’. My Dad married my American mother in Florida not long after, but my grandparents couldn’t afford to go.
Jayne Hughes who lived in Bouverie Street recalls ~ I remember going with my mum. Hard seats but fascinating building. My mum’s cousin Beryl Rainford used to be an usherette there…amazing uniform, maroon suit and pillbox type hat and bright bright red lipstick,!