Date opened: Saturday 27th March 1937.
Original owners: Gaumont British.
Architects: W.E.Trent, FRIBA, assisted by D. Mackay, ARIAS.
Building Contractor: McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd.
Seating capacity: 1503.
Opening film shown: “My Man Godfrey” starring William Powell and Carole Lombard.
Final film shown: “Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines”.
Date Closed: Saturday 17th September 1966.
Building remains derelict.
Following the acquisition by Denman Picture Houses Ltd of the Dingle Picturedrome cinema in 1931, it was demolished together with adjoining commercial properties. Then several years later, the new owners, Gaumont British, instructed their resident architect, W.E.Trent, FRIBA, assisted by D. Mackay, ARIAS, to design a building that would fit onto this compact site in South Liverpool. It was located on a deeply curved corner plot on the junction of Park Road and Dingle Lane, and bounded by Credington Street.
Trent managed to design an impressive building that took full advantage of the vast, sweeping curved line of this prominent corner. McLaughlin & Harvey were appointed as the building contractors , starting work in the June of 1936.
The cinema had an impressive facade with multi-toned brickwork and a prominent central area over the entrance, faced with cream and grey faience tiles. Beneath the canopy, steps led customers to five sets of double doors which were framed with bright blue faience tiles.
The curved entrance foyer was wide with walls lined with buff and brown linoleum. The cash desk was in this foyer facing the entrance doors. Staircases leading up to the balcony lounge were located on either side of the entrance foyer.
A wide balcony seated 603 customer, while the stalls area accommodated a further 900.
The walls of the auditorium were decorated in warm tones of amber textured Marblecote, which complemented the rich wine coloured velvet upholstery of the seats. Deep pile geometric patterned carpet which incorporated the GB monogram in the design completed the welcoming ambiance of this luxurious cinema. Other colours used on interior features of interest were light green, silver and gold, the proscenium frame was round in section and finished in a coppery shade of amber.
A large central rectangular dome dominated the ceiling over the balcony, illuminated around three of it’s edges with concealed lamps set into troughs, the projection ports were contained within the back edge of this feature. Glass tiered light fitting, with varying drops, bordered the dome giving a subtle glow to the auditorium. The proscenium frame opening measured 45′ in width and was round in section, decorated in a coppery shade of amber, lit by troughs of concealed lighting. Gold coloured house curtains blended in perfectly with the warm tones of the proscenium. The stage was 15 feet deep, with four dressing rooms provided. Centrally placed in the orchestra pit was a Wurlitzer 2 Manual/6 Ranks organ which was originally installed at the Trocadero Cinema, Liverpool.
The large projection room measured 32′ x 18′ and was equipped with GB projectors. It was the first in Liverpool to install the Western Electric Mirrophonic sound system. The distance between the projector lens and the screen (throw) was 100′.
On Saturday 27th March 1937, crowds started to gather from 8am. Although invited, the Lord Mayor was on holiday, so the opening at 2pm was performed by JM Cannon, who was Gaumont British circuit Chief Supervisor. The programme included a colour cartoon~ “Birds Of Love”, a comedy short and the Gaumont British newsreel, followed by an interval when organist, William Whittle played the mighty Wurlitzer organ. The first feature film shown was “My Man Godfrey” starring William Powell and Carole Lombard.
Although strong competition soon arrived with a new cinema opening up at Aigburth, the Gaumont enjoyed good business throughout the heyday of the picture palace period. Many famous organist appeared at the cinema during the 1940s/50s, including Harold Thiems, and the BBC organist, Stanley Tudor.
It received only minor damage during the wartime attacks on Liverpool, despite having anti-aircraft guns installed on the roof. Staff rooms were requisitioned to accommodate the gunners.
The Gaumont, showed it’s first CinemaScope film,”The Black Shield”, on 6th December 1954. The new format was seen to it’s full advantage on the new wide screen that fit comfortably into the 45′ proscenium.
Lancashire’s First Wurlitzer was installed in 1927 at the Trocadero Liverpool, then moved to Gaumont Dingle during 1938. It’s home now is at Peel Green where well known organist, Dave Nicholas, is photographed at the console.
As with many cinemas in the suburbs, admissions declined sharply during the late 1950s and into the 1960s. In 1965 the cinema introduced reduced opening times, and within twelve months on Saturday 17th September 1966 the final film, “Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines”, was shown.
The building was quickly transformed into a Top Rank Bingo Club, re-opening in January 1967. The Wurlitzer organ, was retained and put into use entertaining the club’s members when they were not playing bingo staying in place until the mid 1980s. The Wurlitzer organ was removed by enthusiasts and is now in it’s new home at the Theatre Organ Heritage Centre, Peel Green, Eccles, Manchester.
The bingo operation ended in 1998.
The building remains in a derelict condition.