Grand Cinema, Wavertree, Liverpool.

Grand Cinema

559 Smithdown Road,

Liverpool, L15 5AF

 

Date opened:  Saturday 26th July 1913.

Date Closed:  Saturday 29th September 1956.

Owners:  The Grand Cinema Co.Ltd.

Architects:  Fred Campbell of Campbell and Fairhurst (Southport).

Main Building Contractors:  Isaac Dilworth and Sons.

Capacity:  Balcony-224.  Stalls-600.  Total= 824 seats.

First sound film:  “The Desert Song”, starring John Boles.

Final film shown:  “Indian Scout” starring George Montgomery.

 

 

A slender wedge shaped site was secured on the junction of Smithdown Road and Fallowfield Road, close to the electric tram sheds in the Liverpool district of Wavertree for a purpose built cinema.

A group of businessmen, headed by Thomas Halliwell Hughes, formed The Grand Cinema Co.Ltd.  Fred Campbell of the Southport architects practice of Campbell and Fairhurst was engaged to design a modestly sized cinema that would have a total capacity of 824 seats. Building contractor Isaac Dilworth and Sons commenced the construction work in early 1913.

The wide façade rendered with white cement had an ornate stained glass and wrought iron veranda that spanned the full width of the frontage bearing the Grand Cinema name centrally that was integral to the design. Above this veranda/canopy was a domed oriel semi bay window, flanked by a series of windows either side, each framed in stone work. A richly carved Regency style feature containing the cinema’s name within the scrolls and curves towered above the oriel bay window, successfully deflecting attention away from the auditorium roof situated behind. Two shallow domes were situated at roof level on the corners of the frontage, far left and right.

Sets of double doors led patrons into a panelled entrance hall, decorated in Wedgewood blue, a colour scheme that continued into the auditorium with carpets and seats being of a similar tone. The compact but sumptuous balcony foyer was reached via a wide, green carpeted staircase from the main entrance foyer.

The proscenium was small but adequate for the size of the auditorium. The house tabs (curtains) were gold and lavishly embroidered. The projection room originally was equipped with GB projectors that projected an image onto a screen just 17′ in width at a distance of 85′ from projector lens to the screen. A piano was positioned in front of the stage to provide musical accompaniment to the silent films. Later the Grand also had a small orchestra to provide the atmosphere to the feature.

Secondary lighting was by gas mantles situated throughout the cinema as dictated by the local license.

The Grand opened on Saturday 26th July 1913 at 2pm with an evening performance at 7pm and 9pm.  Two years later the Grand was to show Edison Kinetophone Talking Pictures. This was a sound-on-disc system presented on 26th April 1915. Posters boasted that “The human voice was now synchronised with the film”. This was little more than a “one off” novelty presentation and the exhibition quickly reverted back to silent films. 

Click the above frame to play the Edison Kinetophone Talking Pictures.

By 1922 the company had seven cinemas within its portfolio. However, in March 1928 the Grand was sold for £16.350 to the Denman Picture Houses Ltd., a subsidiary of Gaumont British.

The installation of British Acoustic Films sound equipment commenced on 16th December 1929. The first sound film to be shown on Friday 31st January 1930 was “The Desert Song”, starring John Boles.

The business was somewhat restricted owing to the fact that the Grand was a modestly sized suburban cinema with fierce competition from nearby larger cinemas that were allowed first choice of circuit release.

Heading into the 1950s business started to wane. Matinees were also restricted and in 1952 were dropped in an attempt to consolidate business and cut operating costs.  The tiny proscenium was far from suitable for the  width of CinemaScope pictures. However, in 1955, the first film to be shown in the new format was “The Black Shield of Falworth” starring Tony Curtis which was shown on Thursday 4th August 1955. This marred technical addition did little to bring the customers in and attendances dropped sharply making the cinema vulnerable.

A final photograph of the Grand Cinema. c1956. For Sale and boarded up.

The Rank Organisation who now controlled the circuit that included the Grand decided to start a closure programme of unprofitable cinemas. Several Merseyside sites were to be axed. Until now closing cinemas was not common practice, but with television snatching audiences, the exhibitors seized the opportunity of unloading cinemas that, mainly through mismanagement, were considered no longer profitable.

The six year old film that was chosen for the Grand’s final performance.

The Grand’s final performance took place on Saturday 29th September 1956 when “Davy Crockett- Indian Scout” starring George Montgomery, a six year old film was shown.

The building was eventually demolished.  Present use: car retail.

 

chestercinemas.co.ukcopyright white 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________