Commodore Cinema, Bankhall, Liverpool.

Commodore Picture House

387 Stanley Road,

Liverpool, L20 2AE


Original Owners:  Regent Enterprise Ltd.

Architects:  Frederick Evans and Edwin Sheridan Gray of Liverpool.

Cost:  £50000.

Capacity:  Stalls-1306, Balcony- 600.  Total:  1906.

Date opened:  Monday 22nd December 1930.

Opened By:  Alderman F. W. King.

First Film Shown:  ‘Disraeli’, starring George Arliss and Joan Bennett.

Change of Ownership:  Associated British Cinemas, rebranded ABC Commodore. 4th April 1931.

First CinemaScope Film:  ‘The Command’, starring Guy Madison and Joan Weldon.  Thursday 6th January 1955.

Closure As A Cinema:  Saturday 30th November 1968.

Final Films Shown:  ‘How to Seduce a Playboy’ and ‘Virgin Youth’.

Building Extant:  Storage business. 



In April 1929, Regent Enterprise Ltd, a small independent circuit who controlled several Liverpool suburban cinemas secured a large site on Stanley Road, Bankhall, Liverpool, just over 2 miles north of the city centre. Logistically, the new cinema would be well placed, being on a main tram and bus route and within a short walking distance of Bankhall railway station. The company engaged the renowned Liverpool architects, Frederick Evans and Edwin Sheridan Gray, who were specialists in cinema design, to create a quality super cinema that would equal and surpass those in central Liverpool at that time. Costing £50000, the building was to be known as the Commodore Picture House, it was also intended that, on occasions, the venue could provide live entertainment, for which dressing rooms were provided back stage.

Photographed in 1958.


The front elevation of white glazed faience finish, with large apertures of red brick set to the sides of the main entrance, was bright and eye catching. At parapet level the cinema’s name was boldly embedded into the faience, thus creating a permanent feature.  A line of entrance doors led into the spacious foyer. Access to the stalls area was via three sets of double doors. At the right-hand side of the main entrance, a wide staircase led to the balcony foyer, from which corridors at either side gave access to the front of the balcony at the sides of the auditorium, whilst a continuation of the stairs led to the rear.

The overall seating capacity was 1906. With the clever offset arrangement of the seats and the steeply raked floor, an uninterrupted view of the screen was possible from all parts, coupled with a short extension of the balcony over the rear stalls, a feeling of spaciousness was created. The stalls could accommodate 1306 patrons, with a further 600 seats allocated to the balcony, all upholstered in wine coloured velvet, with a similar colour chosen for the deep pile Wilton carpet. Massive octagonal glass fittings were suspended from the barrel-vaulted ceiling. The splay walls featured pylon-style grills. At the lower reaches of these walls the front stalls exits were topped with small decorative balconettes that housed lighting which illuminated the tall arched grillwork. The overall décor of the ceilings and walls in the auditorium was in delicate tones of peach and light green. Colour detailing on heavier ornamentations in plaster were in flame and crimson, artistically edged in silver and bronze.


Attention was immediately drawn towards the impressively large arched proscenium that measured 54’ in width. The screen size was large, at 32’x 22’, enabling the proprietors to boast in their PR that it was the largest in the area.

Much thought had been given to the house tabs (curtains). Central was a design of a leaping stag, with the massive expanse of the remainder of the curtaining being richly embellished with fabulous Art Deco appliqués in russet brown and gold, the colours of which complemented those in the theme of the auditorium. Lighting equipment for the stage included a footlight batten housing 60, 100-watt lamps, wired in a series of three circuits that gave adequate scope for colour change. An overhead batten had the same specification, all controlled through liquid dimmers in the projection room.

Kalee projectors were installed, originally equipped for sound on disc films, together with Western Electric sound system for movies that had a sound track printed on the film itself. The distance between the projection room to the screen was 120’.


The Commodore was officially opened by Alderman F. W. King on the afternoon of Monday 22nd December 1930. He stated that “the opening of this hall marked a milestone in the development of the modern cinema”. The first film shown was ‘Disraeli’, starring George Arliss and Joan Bennett. Also included in the programme was a Mickey Mouse cartoon and Universal News.

Admission prices were: a shilling and one and six in the balcony; six pence and nine pence in the stalls.

In just over twelve months, on 4th April 1931, the fledgling cinema was taken over by Associated British Cinemas, who rebranded it as the ABC Commodore. A policy of screening first or second suburban runs of the company release films, concurrently with the Gainsborough Cinema, Bootle, that had been taken over by ABC at about the same time was adopted. Supporting programmes included Pathe Gazette, renamed Pathe News in the late 1940s.

1936 aerial picture of the Commodore Cinema, Bankhall.

Although enjoying brisk business during the heyday of cinema going, the Commodore, despite being in the convenient situation for public transport, was disadvantaged by being on the perimeter of a built-up area. There was a large expanse between Bankhall and Kirkdale occupied by railways, and in the opposite direction, Bootle had several cinemas competing for business.

During WWII, continuous performances remained in place throughout the day until the late 1950s, when falling admissions meant matinees were played on Monday and Thursday with a children’s matinee on Saturday.

The new wide screen system of CinemaScope was shown to maximum effect at the Commodore. The extra wide proscenium meant a generously proportion screen frame could be accommodated. However, stereo sound was out of reach on the installation budget, with the excuse given that the auditorium was too large.

On Thursday 6th January 1955, the first film to be shown in CinemaScope was ‘The Command’, starring Guy Madison and Joan Weldon.

Towards the end of 1965, there was only one complete evening performance except on Saturdays and Sundays. Admissions continued to plummet, due to poor management that restricted opening hours and the policy of booking poor quality 2nd run films, and giving preference to cinemas such as the ABC Walton, license to play recent and popular product, therefore placing the Commodore on a path to closure.

With EMI now controlling the ABC circuit, a deal was hatched with Mecca to turn the building into a bingo hall. The Commodore showed its final films, an insignificant double programme, ‘How to Seduce a Playboy’ and ‘Virgin Youth’, before a poorly attended audience on Saturday 30th November 1968, thus ending a 37-year cinema association with the building.

Bingo survived until January 1982. The building lay empty for about a year when it was acquired by funeral directors, Coyne Bros. This business moved out in 1993, the premises was used for car sales which lasted a couple of years.

The building then lay empty and unused for many years. Eventually it became a storage facility for a business called Armadillo Storage.