Stretford, M32 0HA
Date opened: Monday 12th October 1936
First film shown: “Tudor Rose” starring Nova Pillbeam
Date Closed as a cinema: September 1965
Architect: Henry Elder
Original Seating Capacity: 2000
Designed by the architect Henry Elder, it was considered to be the height of Art Deco design both inside and out. It was opened on Monday 12th October 1936 by the Mayor of Stretford.
Occupying a site on the junction of Edge Lane and Chester Road in Stretford, a suburb of Greater Manchester. It’s unique curvy art deco designed frontage was given many descriptions, the most popular being like resembling the curvy lines of a cash register- claiming to “represent the business aspect of cinema”?
There were two entrances to the building, the primary one on Chester Road which had a short pedestrian approach to the entrance doors, but this was removed when the A56 was widened. The other entrance was on Edge Lane.
The impressive entrance foyer of Venetian marble, featured large wall murals by Frederick Harry Baines depicting contemporary cinema scenes. The entrance hall led you to the auditorium decorated in art deco style with hues of silver-blue and tangerine.The building was modernistic, having many features such as sound-proofing and under-seat heating. It was also the first cinema in Britain to make use of concealed neon lighting. It had a seating capacity of 1,400 in the stalls and 600 in the balcony.
The first film shown was Tudor Rose, starring Nova Pillbeam. Ticket prices ranged from 6d for a seat in the stalls to a hefty 3s for a best seat in the balcony. There was a restaurant/cafe that seated 146 diners.
Films often gave way to live stage performances. Among numerous top star artists appearing at the Longford was Julie Andrews. During the Second World War, due to bomb damage at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, the Halle Orchestra performed on stage many times.
In August of 1950 the Longford became the Stretford Essoldo when the business changed ownership, being taken over by the Newcastle based Essoldo Chain
Cinema operation ceased in September 1965 when Essoldo changed the use of the building to bingo. Later on this was sold to Rank and became a Top Rank Bingo Club. This closed during the mid 1990s, leaving the building derelict.
1994 -The former Longford Theatre was awarded a Grade II Listed building.