Corona Cinema, Crosby.

Corona Cinema

College Road,
Crosby,

Liverpool, L23

 

Original owners:  John Johnson and H Hughes.

Architects:  Fraser & Ainley of Liverpool.

Main Building Contractors:  R Costain and Sons of Crosby.

Capacity:  Balcony-324.  Stalls- 776.  Total= 1100 seats.

Date opened:  Friday 21st May 1920.

Taken over by:  Denman Picture Houses Ltd/ Gaumont British in March 1928.

First sound film shown :  Monday 31st March 1930.- “The Great Gabbo” starring Eric von Stroheim and Betty Compson.

Managed by Circuit Management Association from:  1947/48.

Restricted matinee policy introduced:  September 1953.

First CinemaScope film shown:  Sunday 5th December 1954.- “The Black Shield of Falworth” starring Tony Curtis.

Date Closed:  Saturday 1st December 1956.

Final film shown:  “The Proud and the Profane” starring William Holden and Deborah Kerr.

Demolished.  Shops built on the site.

 

 

The north of Liverpool site chosen for the Corona Cinema, previously known as Marsh Fields, had an entertainment history for the location of travelling fairs and circuses such as Lord George Sanger’s Circus. Troupes of Pierrots also performed there.

The businessmen behind this new purpose-built silent cinema were John Johnson and H Hughes, who also had within their company portfolio other cinemas in the city. They engaged Liverpool based architects, Fraser & Ainley, to draw up plans for a building that could accommodate 1100 patrons. Building work commenced during 1914 by local contractors, R Costain and Sons. However, building work was halted due to the outbreak of WWI, resuming once hostilities had ceased.

Pictured before opening.

The impressive ornately decorated façade had a dominating central gold painted Corona Cinema sign that was set below the top coping and framed within a large panel. Below was a set of three windows, each topped by a small stone canopy feature. The majority of the frontage was faced with white glazed faience tiles with four panels of brickwork that fortunately provided some relief from the abundance of the stark white faience. There was no canopy. Three separate entrances placed centrally to the front elevation led customers into the main entrance foyer. After passing the cash desk a small central staircase led to the stalls with the balcony staircases placed either side of the foyer.

The auditorium was decorated in what was described as Neo-Grecian in style, although devoid of the ornamentation embellishments usually found in many purpose-built cinemas of that era. A dark dado ran along the lower walls with large panels on the upper reaches, punctuated by shallow pilasters and flutes. A decorative bronze head canopy topped the proscenium. The house curtains (tabs) were dark in colour with a light patterned border. The 324 seat straight stepped balcony, extended over at least half the stalls area. A band pit set in front of the stage was an important feature as it would accommodate up to an eight-piece orchestra that would accompany the silent films.

The proprietor, John Johnson, welcomed the chairman of Crosby U.D.C., Councillor William J, Jackson, together with other dignitaries to the Grand Opening Gala of the Corona Cinema on Friday 21st May 1920 before a capacity audience.

The venue enjoyed good business for a relatively short time. Competitors started to move into the catchment area. A noticeable drop in admissions happened within the first six months when the grander Regent Cinema opened in the December of 1920.

#The film programmes were changed daily with tickets reasonably priced at 6d, 9d and 1/- for the stalls and 1/4d for the balcony. Concert parties were also an important part of the Corona programme. Often the stage was given over completely to these concerts. During 1923 the cinema’s General Manager, W.J. McAree was advertising the premises as “The Fashionable Rendezvous” offering a “3-hour programme of first-class films followed by a first-rate concert party”.  It was popular with the patrons for their song requests to be handed to the leader of the orchestra. The Corona Foxtrot was a firm favourite.

With several other cinemas nearby, the Corona began to suffer. Page boys wearing sandwich boards that advertised the Corona’s programme tramped the streets.

 

Ownership of the Corona Cinema changed hands in March 1928 when Denman Picture Houses Ltd, a subsidiary of Gaumont British Theatres took control.

The cinema was the first locally to present a sound film. “The Great Gabbo” starring Eric von Stroheim and Betty Compson was shown on Monday 31st March 1930. British Acoustic sound system had been quickly installed ahead of the other Crosby cinemas, thus giving a temporary advantage in attracting business. “The Talkie House with an Orchestra” was boasted. However, the orchestra was made redundant when sound films took over from silent prints.

Being managed by Gaumont British, by 1947/48 it came under the control of the Circuit Management Association (an amalgamation of Gaumont British & Odeon Theatres Ltd), who also managed the nearby Plaza Cinema. However, with admissions ever declining, a decision was taken during September 1953 to restrict matinee performances to Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays in an attempt to reduce operating costs.  The following year, in line with CMA’s first suburban run policy, it became the first local cinema to install CinemaScope, showing “The Black Shield of Falworth” starring Tony Curtis on Sunday 5th December 1954.

Click on the above frame to watch the closing scene from “The Black Shield of Falworth”

Two years later the Corona Cinema was one of the first suburban cinemas operated by the CMA to close on Saturday 1st December 1956. The final feature shown was “The Proud and the Profane” starring William Holden and Deborah Kerr.

 

The building was demolished. Shops now occupy the site.

 

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