Date opened: November 1923.
Date Closed: Saturday 5th August 1961.
Architects: Wright and Hamlyn of Warrington.
First General Manager: Tom Fyall.
Last General Manager: James Turner.
Seating Capacity: 480.
Building demolished: 1961.
The Grand cinema, Frodsham was situated by the railway bridge in Church Street. The bridge is next to the station and to put a cinema so close to a bridge could invite a few problems, which it did, as vibration could be felt in the cinema whenever a train roared over the bridge. It was also next door to the infant school where a load of kids, including myself were taken to see the 1953 film on the climbing of Everest. The Grand replaced the Chapel Lane Picture Palace and shares were offered by the Frodsham Cinema Company Ltd from 14 August 1922. The capital was £8000 in £1 shares. The building was designed by Warrington architects Wright and Hamlyn. The directors were G Kydd, L Pollard and Robert Hamilton, who ran several halls, including the Empress Runcorn.
Films were booked from the hall by manager Tom Fyall. Seating capacity was to be around 700, but in the Kine Yearbooks it is listed as only housing 480, this included a small balcony and if you sat near the back of the balcony the running of the projector could be heard. These I am told were the Kalee 8 model. It was stated at one point that Kalee machines were in over seventy five per cent of cinemas in the UK.
The cinema opened in November 1923. In the late 1920s the first talkie screened was ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’, with sound on disc. Later, sound tracks would be printed on the film. Some recalled it going out of synch, no doubt due to someone slamming a door.
By 1937 the cinema was being run by Byrom Picture Houses Ltd based at 1-3 Stanley Street Liverpool. On 29 December 1938 the Liverpool Echo reported that negotiations were completed today, for the purchase by Mr Philip M Hanmer, managing director of Regent Enterprises Ltd, of the cinema interests held by Mr Stanley Grimshaw in Byrom Picture Houses Ltd, and associated companies. The theatres controlled by Byrom Picture Houses Ltd, were the Derbyshire cinema, Gaiety cinema, New Adelphi cinema, Burlington cinema, all of Liverpool; the King’s Picture House, Heswall; the Grand cinema, Frodsham; and the Tivoli, Buckley. The associated companies control the Prince of Wales Cinema, Liverpool, and the Flynn and Empire cinemas Wrexham. Mr Hanmer is at present managing director of five cinemas, including the Plaza, in the course of construction at Crosby, and plans have already been approved by the justices for three more cinemas, on which work is likely to commence in the New Year.
Films at the Grand were booked by Philip M. Hanmer at 51 North John Street Liverpool. Later he moved to 51a Rodney Street Liverpool. Shows were three days only and there was never any Sunday opening. Films would only be screened in the evening, but there were matinees on Wednesday and Saturday. During the week films would be continuous. There were separate houses on a Saturday. Children’s Saturday matinees were introduced and at 2pm the kids would be treated to a comedy, a feature, usually a western and a serial. Flash Gordon was one of these, leaving the excited audience wondering how their hero would get out of yet another predicament.
In the 1950s Cinemascope was installed with side masking. The stage was 13 feet deep and the proscenium width was 24 feet. There were two dressing rooms under the stage. The hall was in red and gold. The tabs (curtains) were red with a gold fringe. The screen was pushed back for the occasional stage shows Steps led to the small entrance where there was a paybox on the right and the balcony staircase opposite. The staircase walls had posters in frames advertising forthcoming attractions. There was no balcony lounge. At the top of the staircase there was a door that took you into the tiny balcony. When the cinema was closed there were concertina gates across the front for added security. There was red neon, spelling the word Grand at the top of the building.
The first to manage the cinema was Tom Fyall, who had also worked at the Frodsham Picture Palace. I am told he had a dance troupe called Tom Fyall’s dainty dots. Occasional live shows would be presented at the cinema. Fyall had been a manager in County Durham before moving to Frodsham. One live performance was a friendly German tenor singer, who entertained Frodsham audiences in August 1937. Who would have thought then that two years later he would be regarded as the enemy. For many years one of the operators’ was a woman by the name of Doris Woolham. The last manager was James Turner, who had the nick name of Jimmy Pictures. He became manager of the Grand in 1956. Originally from north Wales he was there when it closed on the 5th August 1961.
The last film was ‘Carry on Regardless’ and a ‘Scotland Yard’ short. It then became a bingo hall, which didn’t last very long. A report says that the first night of eyes down there were only 110 in attendance with a top prize of 19 guineas. After the first evening there were only around 40 trying their luck. Byrom put the building up for sale. Later, it was demolished and was replaced by a supermarket.
David A Ellis © chestercinemas.co.uk