CINEMAS NEAR & FAR

ABBEY CINEMA WAVERTREE.

The Abbey cinema Wavertree, Liverpool, designed by Alfred Earnest Shennon was the only cinema in the city to screen three strip cinerama, back in 1964. The first Cinerama presentation was This is Cinerama shown from the 17th March 1964 and ran for seven weeks. The cinema was run by the Wood family, who ran Bedford Cinemas (1928) Ltd. They ran a number of cinemas, including the Mayfair, Aigburth and the Empire Garston.

The Projection Staff

A new projection box was installed in the stalls area for Cinerama, housing three projectors. The Sound was magnetic, and on a separate reel. It carried seven tracks and produced excellent sound seperation. Because of cost the three reel Cinerama didn’t last long, though there were a few good features made in it, including How the West Was Won and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, starring the late Laurence Harvey.

 

JIM WOOD – a projectionist’s experience of presenting Cinerama. Click on the above frame  to watch his interview.

After the three strip system proved not financially viable, 70mm Cinerama was shown on the the screen, which was made in strips to cut down on reflection. The Abbey first opened its doors on the 4th March 1939 with the film Joy of Living. The opening ceremony took place at 2.30 and was conducted by a Mr W.T. Lancashire. The film was supported by Mrs Wilf Hamer and her band. It was stated that she appeared by kind permission of the Grafton Rooms directorate. The Grafton was a popular place to go dancing. In advertising the opening, it was stated that the cinema was equipped with perfect architecture, perfect decoration, perfect comfort, perfect sound and vision and perfect programmes. Talk about blowing your own trumpet. They also say We have thought of everything, come and see for yourself. They also boast a car park, deaf aids throughout, coffee, ices etc brought to your seats and a magnificent hall of mirrors.

Lit in neon- ABBEY CINEMA

The main entrance and the tower had a well designed scheme of neon lighting. The local paper said: ‘From the centre of the main entrance hall, with a glass mosaic floor in varying shades of blue with silver stars, rises an impressive column of light, flanked by two similar half columns.’ In the foyer, one wall and the ceiling was completely mirrored. The opposite wall was richly panelled in Australian walnut.

ABBEY CINEMA- main entrance foyer

The floor completely laid in wood mosaic, struck a musical note in design. There was a decorative motif in the bass clef Leading up from the foyer to the first floor lounge was a staircase in green terrazzo, which was ten feet wide and enclosed by an ornate balustrading in polished copper and aluminium. Suspended ceilings and plain plasterwork was carried out by Adams Brothers of Liverpool. The decorative work in the interior was supplied and fitted by H.E Wilson (1924) Ltd, who made good use of their Hewiac spray finishing process. The Glass and glazing was provided by Wilkinson and Co, from Liverpool and Birkenhead. The mirrors to ceiling and walls in the main foyer was supplied and fixed by Williams and Watson Ltd, also from LiverpooA novel feature of the foyer was the clock set in the mirrored wall. Two spots of light took the place of the hands. Two pairs of doors lead from the lounge to the balcony. The auditorium ceiling was composed entirely of large domes in irrdescent gold and individually illuminated. The walls of the auditorium were treated in wide horizontal bands of primrose, Orange, and gold speckle, separated by bands of silver. The bands lead the eye to the main grilles flanking the proscenium, an interesting feature being the illuminated columns of multi-coloured light, which act as a frame.

Seating was available for 1,126 on the ground floor and 744 in the balcony. Plumbing throughout was done by Liverpool firm Thomas Murtha and son, who also did the exterior painting and a large amount of interior painting – another local firm. The cinema closed on the 4th August 1979 with a 70mm showing of The Towering Inferno.

The Abbey as a Cinerama theatre.

 

Click the above frame to play the documentary

 

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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JACEY FILM THEATRE LIVERPOOL

JACEY cinemas ran a number of news theatres before switching to features, usually of the continental variety. Some of their halls were named Tatler. The first was in London, followed by Birmingham. They expanded and had news theatres in Manchester and Liverpool. Managing director was a Joseph C. Cohen.

The Liverpool building designed by George L. Alexander for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT) was built on the site of the Prince of Wales Theatre, which opened in December 1861 with The Maid with the Milking Pail. Ownership and renovation of the theatre took place several times, and in 1870 it was run by Eldred and Fairlie. Mitchell and Kenyon screened The Arrest of Goudie in 1901.

Some sources say the Prince of Wales was demolished to make way for the cinema. Others reports are not clear on this, and give the impression it was a conversion. Does anyone know for sure? The theatre, which was known as The Little House in the Square closed in 1905 and was offered for sale or rental. The PCT cinema called The Liverpool Picture House opened on November 25th 1912, situated in Clayton Square. It is not clear what it was between 1905 and 1912, can anyone enlighten us? In April 1914 PCT re-named it The Prince of Wales Cinema. They operated it until 1923. New owners Savoy cinemas, a subsidiary of ABC, then took over.

THE LIVERPOOL NEWS THEATRE

Talkies arrived at the cinema On 30th September 1929 with the film The Trial of Mary Duggan. In 1933 it was run by a subsidiary company of ABC called the Regent Circuit. Stanley Grimshaw’s Byrom Picture Houses Ltd took over in 1936. Later, Philip Hamner from Regent Enterprises, (not to be confused with the Regent Circuit) took over Byrom. It is stated in the press that the cinema was sold to Jacey by the Hanmer brothers, but I have only heard of Philip Hanmer. The theatre underwent alteration and seating capacity was reduced.

It opened on the 17th December 1946 as The Liverpool News Theatre. Seating was for 561, originally being 700. Screenings were continuous from 10am to 10.30, the programme lasting 75 minutes. The opening was conducted by the mayor WG Gregson.

The proceeds from the first performance went to the Child Welfare Clothing Fund. At the time of opening it was the largest news theatre in the country. There were now two news theatres in Liverpool, the other being the Tatler in Church Street, which opened on the 19th February 1934 and housed Ross Projectors and Kalee Vulcan arcs.

The Liverpool News Theatre auditorium. 1947

On the 20th September 1962 It became The Gala International Film Theatre. This was short lived and it went back to Jacey in September 1963, becoming The Jacey Film Theatre. They mainly screened continental films. They sold the magazine Continetal Film Review in the foyer. There was a small area where you could purchase tea and coffee. There was a juke box in this area that ran 16mm film, so you could view the singer.

The cinema, which had the BTH SUPA projection system, closed on the 7th July 1972.

The building became a church and was demolished in 1986.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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MAYFAIR cinema, Aigburth, Liverpool.

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The COMMODORE CINEMA, Bootle.

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The RITZ CINEMA, Birkenhead

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The PLAZA CINEMA, Birkenhead.

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The ARGLE CINEMA, Birkenhead.


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Click on the tab below to view cinemas in WREXHAM

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Empress Runcorn.

The Empress cinema Lowlands Road, Runcorn, was the head office of Cheshire County Cinemas, run by the Godfrey family. They ran several cinemas in Cheshire and Lancashire. In Runcorn they also owned the Scala cinema, which was originally known as the Palace Kinema. This became Scala in the late 1920s and Cheshire County Cinemas took over in 1930. Cinema screenings ceased in 1957 and it became a dance hall, called La Scala. Its claim to fame was two appearances by the fab four, the Beatles, playing There on the 16th October 1962 and 12th November 1962. It was eyes down in 1970 when bingo was the name of the game. It closed for good in 2006 and had the demolition hammer on it in 2012. The small circuit also ran the Kings cinema Other cinemas in the circuit included the Woolton, Liverpool, the Empire and Plaza Widnes and the Regal and Plaza Northwich.

The Empress opened on the 26 December 1913 as the Empress Assembly Hall with a flat floor and no balcony. The building was used for a number of uses, including film. An ad from December 1914 mentions it as the Empress cinema showing the films Hearts Adrift and A Lady of Quality. Still named as the Empress Assembly Hall, it was up for sale in March 1915. It was closed for alterations on 11 th June 1915. The floor was raked and a stage and balcony were inserted. it re-opened on the 16th August 1915 and run by Mr Robert Godfrey, better known as Robert Hamilton. Later, Cheshire County Cinemas were formed.

The foyer of the Empress was small with a pay-box on the right, as you entered. Next to the pay-box was a door leading to the small projection room. The projection equipment consisted of Westar projectors, Peerless carbon arcs and Western Electric Sound. There was also a slide lantern. Stereo sound was an attraction, offered occasionally when prints with four track magnetic sound were available. All the circuit’s cinemas were equipped with the Westar machines and Western Electric sound. After the cinema’s closure the machines went to the shopping city twin cinemas, now gone, using the tower system. The balcony staircase was on the right, just past the pay-box.  The 1,023 seat cinema, which originally housed 1200 had a fully equipped stage.


For many years the manager was a Mr John Darlington. He was there in the silent era, and and would stand behind the screen, creating sound effects. Later, a Mr Horton took over the manager’s duties. The cinema had a children’s matinee on Saturday afternoon, which included the usual cliff hanging serial. Films were only shown in the evenings, with the main feature being screened twice and the second feature once. The national anthem was screened before the start of the show and for some reason they didn’t show the certificate at the time I went. The only cinema where I hadn’t seen it.

For many years the chief operator was a man by the name of Percy. Relief projectionist was a Mr John Forster. He would cover at other cinemas including the Plaza Widnes. On June 23 1973 the little Empress closed with the film The Clockwork Orange, and it was later demolished for road development.

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk (Photograph – Shirley Valentine)

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PALACE/SCALA RUNCORN

Palace Cinema Runcorn

The Palace theatre High Street Runcorn, Cheshire opened for business on the 20th March 1913. The opening programme was the film, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. Proceeds from the first performance went to the cottage hospital and the Runcorn District Nurse Fund. There were two houses at 7 and 9. Prices were one shilling, sixpence and threepence. There was a children’s matinee on the Saturday with prices at one penny and tuppence. Building was rapid. The first brick was laid on January 6th and the building was erected in the second week of February. It was designed by Clegg and Lloyd and the contractors were Richard Costain of Liverpool. Seating was provided for 964.

Opening advertisement

The Palace was run by Alfonso Smith and his lieutenant Douglas Watson, a newcomer to Runcorn, described as a man possessed of much energy and up to date ideas. The press said: The brilliant illumination of the front of the theatre attracted a great crowd and several constables were required to keep the thoroughfare free from obstruction.

The film programme commenced after the orchestra had played the national anthem. It was also reported that too large a lens had been used, but was soon put right. It was said that the audience enjoyed the programme and greatly admired the comfort and charm of the new building. At the time the cinema licence was granted it was reported that the magistrates had inspected the building and had found it very complete. They had unanimously decided to grant the license. They had been talking over one one or two details. The bench were desirous that there should be enough light in the house to prevent the possibility of any complaints. They had no desire to hamper the management by making any regulations but the bench would keep an eye on the place for six months, just to satisfy themselves.

Apart from film, stage shows were presented. These were first staged from Easter Monday onwards. One of the acts was Hayes and Merritt, described as trampolinists. They appeared in April 2013. Also appearing that month were the nieces of Music Hall star Vesta Tilley, dancers, calling themselves the Two Vestas.

On the 9th June 1913 the first all picture programme was presented. Films included ‘The Fatal Grotto’ and ‘Saved by the child’. In the late 1920s the Palace became the Scala. In 1930 it was taken over by Cheshire County Cinemas, who also ran the Empress, the head office of the company.

Re-named SCALA Runcorn

Film shows came to an end in 1957 and it became a dance hall called LA SCALA. It is said that it had the nickname Ranch house because of the number of westerns it screened.

Pop sensation the Beatles made two appearances, on 16th October 1962 and 11th December 1962. Dancing came to an end, and in 1970 bingo was the name of the game. The building was closed for good in 2006 and was left to deteriorate. The wrecking ball was called in, in 2012. Another one of Runcorn’s entertainment venues consigned to history.

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk

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Coliseum and Phoenix Wallasey.

Coliseum Wallasey

The Phoenix Wallasey was built on the site of the Coliseum cinema. It was named Phoenix because it was built on the site of a former one, which had been bombed . The Phoenix was the first cinema designed by young Liverpool architect Alexander Webber, who was only twenty- four at the time. The Coliseum, originally known as the Cosmo opened on the 12th May 1913 with the film “For the Honour of the 7th”. There was a large glass dome on the roof and there were shops on both sides of the entrance. The single level hall housed seven hundred. Alterations took place in 1924. They included installing a forty foot deep stage and nine dressing rooms. Films ceased, and It was renamed the Coliseum Theatre, opening on the 24th June 1924. It appears it wasn’t a success as a live venue and film was reintroduced from Easter Monday 1925, and it was renamed again, this time to the Wallesey Picture House. The opening attraction was “The Family Secret”. Later it became the Coliseum. Sadly, it was bombed in 1941.

The bombed site of the Cosmo

 

Ten years after the Coliseum’s demise, the Phoenix rose on the site and was built for Leslie Blond. The doors opened for the first time on the 4th June 1951 with king of the cowboys, John Wayne in “Rio Grande”. Seating was for 792, on a single floor. It was stated that, if required a balcony could be erected at a later date, which never happened. Unlike many other cinemas there were two cry rooms, each having six double seats to accommodate parents and children. The rooms were equipped with loudspeakers, so that the occupants could see and hear the programme. At one point one of the projectionists’ was Eric Monkhouse. His wife also worked there as an operator.The operating box was reached from outside the cinema.

 

Phoenix Wallasey

The cinema was the first in Wallasey to be equipped with Cinemascope in July 1953, and was described as bigger than normal wide screens. The auditorium merged to a semi circular shape at the proscenium end where there was a complete absence of ornamentation. The expanse of the side walls was broken by a series of plain pilasters. Across the full width of the ceiling there were six fibrous plaster troughs stepped down towards the proscenium to conceal the main house lighting. Soft furnishings were in varying shades of blue. On the carpeting alone there were four shades. Between the rows of seats the floor covering was a heavy type of linoleum, which was said to have a life of fifty years. The stage tabs were dark blue with silver relief.

During the summer of 1975 it was taken over by the Hutchinson Leisure Group, who were based in Burnley. They decided to turn it into a twin cinema and bingo. Bingo wasn’t successful, so the bingo section also became a cinema. The complex became known as Cinema 3. In the projection room there were two Westar projectors with Western Electric sound. The light source was provided by Peerless carbon arcs. Later, the Westars were paired with Orcon xenon lamps. Tower systems were installed allowing the film to run without changeovers. The last manager was Geoff Mander. The end came on the 6th July 1983 with “Tootsie” in screen 1 and “An Officer and a Gentleman” in screen 2. By that time screen 3 had already been closed. The building was demolished. The Phoenix rose again, this time in the form of housing.

 

Final curtain for the Phoenix

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk

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CINEMAS AT A DISTANCE

 

The Metropole cinema Victoria, London, which was originally going to be called the Broadway, was opened on Friday the 27th December 1929. It was designed by George Coles, and was built for brothers Sydney, and Philip Hyams. It is said that it was part of the Hyams and Gale circuit, but Gale has no mention in the list of directors. The ERA dated the 1st January 1930 says: The directors of the Metropole are Mr Philip Hyams ( Chairman and joint Managing Director) Mr Sid Hyams ( Joint Managing Director) Mr L Benveniti, Mr H W S Howard and Mr B O Savage, ACA. Mr R S Sowden, whose long experience at the Rivoli and more recently at the Regal, Marble Arch, equips him well for the post as General Manager, and Mr Mick Hyams, House Manager. Mr Archie Parkhouse is to preside over the magnificent organ. Before teaming up with Gale the Hyams’ were responsible for several cinemas, which they sold to Gaumont.

Situated opposite Victoria Station, the Metropole was built on what was the bed of a river and the foundations had to be sunk to a depth of thirty five feet. The theatre was designed with a View to combining modern simplicity with the warmth and colour of the Spanish Renaissance period. The prevailing colour scheme throughout was amber, gold and blue. There was a marble floor in the foyer area with pillars of onyx and marble. The auditorium had walnut panelling and there was amber lighting that was concealed. There was a magnificent chandelier which hung from the central dome. Auditorium carpet was in blue, and the proscenium curtain was woven in gold. The proscenium itself measured thirty- seven feet. The theatre boasted six dressing rooms. Features in the foyer, included curved skylight Windows, which had a rich yellow stain with geometric decorations in orange and blue. They were in the high curved ceiling and were nine feet by eight feet.

METROPOLE Cinema

The first film to hit the screen was The Co-optimists. It was stated in the press that the film was the most wonderful for voice production we have heard. In fact by merely closing the eyes you could think the cast were there in the flesh.

At the opening a Mr Archie Parkhouse presented a musical novelty, on what was described as the magnificent Standaart organ, after which, one of the directors of the theatre apologised for the unfinished state of the building. He told the audience that the elements had been against them and how sorry he was that those present walked in as the carpet people walked out.

In July 1935 the organ was replaced by a Wurlitzer model. In 1961 it was removed. Musical entertainment was provided by Jack Hylton and his boys. They created a furore when the curtain rose and they started to play Singing in the Rain, followed by Aint Misbehaving, Stepping Out and others.

The ERA said: Although it has been stated that a full orchestra had been engaged for the New Metropole Cinema opposite Victoria Underground Station, there was not done at the opening on Friday, and I understand that the directors are pursuing a “waiting” policy. That is to say, if the patrons of this magnificent new house desire a real orchestra, the directors are prepared to engage one. In the meantime, music lovers are to have bands and turns on the stage to satisfy their desires as far as possible. Jack Hylton and his boys were the opening attraction, and are remaining on. Teddy Brown will be seen there in the near future.

On the 1st of June 1932, shortly after Baird’s television demonstration at Selfridges, plans were made to televise the Epsom Derby. It was transmitted by land line to the Metropole. The Odeon circuit took control in 1943 and played first run Odeon circuit product. The cinema’s claim to fame was in 1945 when the interior of the theatre and the organ, were featured in the classic movie Brief Encounter.

Road show presentations began in 1959 with the musical Oklahoma, opening on the 26th December. Because it was now equipped for 70mm screenings, a new wide screen was placed in front of the proscenium, and the seating capacity was reduced from the original 1,967 to 1,394. The new projectors were the the Philips DP 70s. The DP70 was the only projector to win an Oscar. If anyone knows what projection equipment was in before 70mm, please let us know.

The cinema’s longest run was Lawrence of Arabia (1962) screened in 70mm with fantastic six track magnetic sound. It had previously had an eight week run at the Odeon L/Square. This ran at the Metropole for a staggering ninety- eight weeks. Another long run was the epic El Cid. On the 5th April 1967 the cinema hosted a Royal Premiere, screening Steve McQueen in The Sand Pebbles. Eventually 70mm roadshow product started to dry up, no doubt due to expense, and the cinema went back to first run 35mm shows.

Sadly, film ceased On the 11th June 1977 with the film Burnt Offerings. It became the Metropole Laser Theatre, staging a show called Lovelight, commencing 21st June 1977 until 26th September1977. After this, the shutters came down, and it didn’t open for business until Virgin records took control opening it as a concert hall named The Venue. This operated from 1st November 1978 until August 1984. The demolition hammer moved in after this, destroying the beautiful auditorium. The nearby Cameo/ Classic’s auditorium was also victim to the wrecking ball. Fortunately, the foyer of the Metropole and Classic were retained, with the old  Metropole  Opening  as a restaurant. After several occupiers it was opened as Pizza establishment called Ask.

In September 2010 it was announced that the block, which included both the Classic and Metropole were to be demolished to make way for an extension to the Victoria Underground station, providing a new entrance and exit on the north side of Victoria Street. Another fine cinema had joined so many others, as just a memory.

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk (Thanks to Cinema Treasures for some of the information and images).

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Capitol cinema Belfast

The Capitol cinema, which was on the Antrim Road at the corner of Alexandra Park Avenue, Belfast was the third of the new Michael Curran picture theatres to be erected in the city to the plans of architect Thomas McLean. It was opened by a Lady Turner, who congratulated the owners on the splendid building. The opening attractions on Saturday the 9th November 1935 were the Wheeler and Woolsey comedy ‘The Nitwits’. The second feature was ‘By Your Leave’. Prior to the opening ceremony, a half hour’s musical programme was provided by a Mr F. Mohan and his orchestra.

Proceeds from the opening performance were donated to Belfast Newsboys’ Club. Refreshments were available from the first floor cafe, which had wide Windows overlooking the Antrim Road. The exterior was finished in a cream colour. Over the entrance there was a canopy in gold and red and the same colours were used for the entrance doors and display cases, both picked out in stainless steel. Grilles were in pale green and silver. The cinema was carpeted throughout and the press said that the tip-up arm chairs seats were extremely comfortable. The main entrance doors was on the corner. The porch had double swing doors, which prevented draughts getting into the foyer. The local press said the foyer was of ample size and had a handsome box office. Off it were cloakrooms for both sexes and a central door gave access to the auditorium.

Unlike the other Curran houses there was no dome at the Capitol. Neon lighting was supplied by the Liverpool Company Vidro Ltd, which was run by a Mr David Rowan. Furnishings, including Wilton carpet were supplied by the CO-OP Trading Company, High Street, Belfast. Glass was supplied by Campbell Brothers of Millfield, Belfast. They were also responsible for the wrought steel verandahs. Electrical installation was carried out by Curran Bros of Long Lane, Belfast. Terrazzo was employed in the foyer and staircases, and was executed by a Mr Crescenzo Fusiciardi of Belfast.

Seating was for around 1,100 and on the upper floor was a suite of offices, one of them used as a boardroom for the directors of the Curran group. The auditorium held around a thousand people and lighting was concealed behind the cornice. The local press said, Around the proscenium arch and in troughs flanking the large ventilating grilles on either side of It are other lamps, and though the auditorium can be brightly lit by these means, not a lamp is visable anywhere and glare is entirely absent.

It is said that at some point it was taken over by Rank. Through the 1950s it was still run by Curran cinemas. It was eventually demolished, making way for a supermarket. If anyone can tell us when Rank took over and when the cinema closed, we would love to hear from you.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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The Lido, Belfast

BELFAST was home to a great number of cinemas and in 1955 another was added to the list. The Lido was the 45th cinema to be opened there on Saturday the 26th March with a Charity Gala performance. The Lido Shore Road was the first new cinema in the city to be built since the second world war. The opening was performed by a Sir James Norritt, the former Lord Mayor. The opening saw a full house, and many stood at the back and along the sides at this 1050 seat hall, which was on one level. A special feature of its design was the special acoustic treatment of the back wall and ceiling. The cinema was run by Troxy Cinema Ltd, the managing director being a Mr Harry Wilton.

Before the opening film ‘Take the Stage’, a comedy western, there was a variety programme, which was opened by the Faulat Girl Pipers, under Pipe-Major H. Galbraith. He marched in, playing from the foyer and paraded down the aisles to the front of the cinema. Other performers included James Glenn, a tenor singer and comedian Frank Carson. Proceeds from the opening performance were divided between the Ulster Schools for the deaf and blind. These were Lisburn Road, St Brigid’s School for blind girls and junior boys Whiteabbey.

From Monday the 28th March ‘The Student Prince’ was screened. This was followed by Calamity Jane, from the Thursday. The local press said that the Lido was the first cinema in Belfast specially designed to accommodate the new wide screen, and the first impression one receives on entering the auditorium is the great width of the proscenium. Some representatives of the Variety Club of Ireland were in attendance. They included a Mr R Britten, assistant chief barker, Mr F Speeds and a Mr S Durbidge, members of the Fund Raising Committee. Architect was Mr JMB Neill. The local press said, Mr Neill has used his long experience in cinema design in an attempt to obtain the maximum comfort for patrons and at the same time keep construction costs within manageable bounds.

The main contractors were Sloan Brothers. They had been responsible for the building of a large number of cinemas in Northern Ireland. The cinema housed a large cafe-shop, which opened a few weeks after the cinema’s opening. It was described as an attractive, almost Continental feature. It was said that the Lido scheme has given this rather drab stretch of road an almost Continental aspect.

The cinema, didn’t have a long life, closing in 1970. Some sources say it was the first in Belfast to install Cinemascope. This is not so, as Cinemascope was first screened in the city at the Hippodrome from the 11th January 1954. The film screened was The Robe. The Lido was bought by the local Roman Catholic Community and became a church. Eventually it was demolished to make way for a new church.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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On December the 7th 1935 one of Belfast’s luxury cinemas opened its doors. It was the Strand, which stood on Gelston’s corner, Holywood Road. It was designed by a Mr J. McBride Neill of Belfast, who also designed the Majestic, and had seating for 1170 – 270 of those in the balcony. These were supplied by C.R Harrison and sons Ltd , Newton-Le Willows. It was Belfast’s first suburban cinema to be run by Union Cinemas and was built in six months by Sloan brothers of Pilot Street Belfast. They built three cinemas in Belfast and built the Tonic cinema in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Proceeds from the first performance went to the Lord Mayor’s Coal Fund.

The cinema was opened by Sir Crawford McCullagh, the mayor. He said it would be a worthy acquisition to Strandtown and district. The cinema housed a cafe, which housed a soda fountain. The carpeting was similar to the auditoriums. In shape and size the cafe corrrsponded to the foyer below it. The local press said, unlike many cinemas built in years gone by there is no over decoration but the auditorium has something new to show in cinema wall decoration, at least in Ireland. The walls have a ground of waterproof plastic paint, on which is sprayed a texture of metallic paint. The colour scheme was carried out in monochromatic shades and the general effect was bright and fresh. The speckling of the sprayed metallic paint was considered most attractive.

STRAND CINEMA, Belfast. Proscenium & front stalls

The auditorium had a specially woven snake design, which was said to give a luxurious effect. The stage was equipped with a festoon curtain. The foyer was covered with terrazzo in bold bars of colour, grey, red, black and aluminium. The payback walls were were covered with white rubber and staybrite steel, which continued the modern note. The foyer was large and triangulate in shape and there was ample natural light from the long window running around the corner at the apex of the triangle. There were cloakrooms for both sexes open off the foyer. A Mr D.D.Young, president of the White Cinema Club, who presided said that from the stage the auditorium reminded him of a Transatlantic liner wending it’s way through the Ocean at night.

ABC Strand

Later, the cinema was taken over by ABC and they continued to operate it until it closed in 1983. In 1984 it became a live venue run by a Mr Ronnie Rutherford. In April 1988 it reverted back to cinema use with four screens. seating was for six hundred and forty two.
In 1999 it underwent a restoration bringing back many of its lost features and won an RIBA Architecture Award. In 2005 the cinema celebrated its seventieth birthday with a screening of A Night To Remember about the sinking of the Titanic. This was shown as part of the Belfast Film Festival. In 2013 it ceased as a commercial cinema and the Strand Arts Centre was established as a not for profit charitable venture. As well as films, it hosts many live events. The cinema is one of two remaining independent cinemas in Belfast, the other being the Queen’s Film Theatre. Seating at the Stand is now listed as seating six hundred and eight.

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk 

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The Luxor Lancing.

Luxor Cinema Lancing

The Luxor Cinema Lancing in Sussex designed by W. Frazer Granger was built opposite the station. It opened on the 17th January 1940 with the famous crazy gang, starring in the feature ‘Frozen Limits’. The opening should have been earlier but was delayed due to shortages of material. There should have been a ballroom, but this never opened. Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE, who went on to become the first British Film Commissioner, tells me that the ship carrying material for it was sunk by a German U Boat. The ballroom area became a store room. The cinema had seating for 998, 800 of those in the stalls. The proscenium was thirty six feet wide and the stage was twenty feet deep.

Up in the projection room were two Ernemann 7 projectors, the last pair imported from Germany before the war. The Sound was Western Electric Mirrorphonic, which was only the seventh to be installed in the county at the time. It was also stated that the cinema was the only theatre in Sussex fitted with Western Electric deaf aid equipment. There were to be shops at the side of the building. These didn’t open at the beginning because of material shortages. Instead they were used to place posters. Ninety three year old Sir Sydney, who joined the cinema as a fourth projectionist or rewind boy at fourteen, has fond memories of the cinema, and tells me, when the doorman was called up for duty he took over the job of bill posting and putting letters on the canopy. On one occasion he ran out of the letter L, and made the letter up using cardboard and painting it red.

The cinema opened its doors for the first time at 2pm for a 3pm start. The telephone number was Lancing 3000.The opening was performed by a Mr E Pearce, a leading aircraft man with the words ‘I declare this theatre open.’ Prior to the war he had been the chief assistant to the architect of the cinema.There was great interest in the opening and police were present to regulate the traffic and control the queues. Opening prices of admission were, from 9d to 1/6. There was car park and cycling accommodation. The Worthing Herald dated December 24 1943 reported that around six hundred members of the Lancing Home Guard were invited with their families to a free screening of Oh Mr Porter. A collection raised over twenty pounds for the prisoners of war fund. The cinema was an independent hall built by F.T. Wilson and Son from Brighton and run by a Mr Basil Fortesque under Luxor (Lancing) Ltd. Fortesque had been in the cinema business for twenty three years and had been connected with several cinemas, including the Regent Dover. He also leased the Regal Lancing in 1939, which had been the Odeon. It had 654 seats and had a proscenium width of twenty feet and the stage was twelve feet deep. It also had two dressing rooms and BTH projection equipment.

Two months after the Luxor opened, the Regal closed and was re-opened again on the 16th October 1941, still retaining the name Regal. To celebrate the re-opening, every tenth person was admitted free. Odeon operated it again from 30th August 1942 and they still kept the Regal name. In March 1945 it reverted back to the name Odeon on the canopy. The Luxor was built for around £25,000. It was said there were four dressing rooms for occasional stage shows. However, Sir Sydney says he doesn’t remember there being any dressing rooms. The chief operator was a Mr Frank Chipperfield. At the opening Mr Fortesque and the manager Mr W.J Kirk were in the foyer greeting guests. Twenty months after it had opened, a short article stated that Mr Fortesque managed the cinema himself and was always available to meet any member of the public. He would welcome suggestions and criticism. It may have been that Mr Kirk had left by then. He spent five and a half years in the RAF.After Mr Kirk, a Mr Alfred G. Leavers DCM managed the theatre until April 1946, when Mr Kirk returned.

The foyer was covered in linoleum of a blue marble design with a two tone border effect and interior decorations were marblecote sprayed red and gold over cream. Carpets throughout had a flame background with an ultra modern pattern in green, black and gold. The front stage curtains were in various shades of gold velour, with a shaped appliqued pelmet. Other curtains were a pair of draped drawn curtains in pale gold, and the rear stage pair silver festooned with borders and side legs. It was stated that green and silver were the notes of other draperies, and covering a horizontal series of windows at the side of the auditorium was a curtain of attractive shape with appliqued design. The front and rear curtains of the stage were controlled from the operating box and the stage.

The cinema was taken over by the H. Bentley circuit in 1946 and by Shipman and King in 1952. Live shows came to an end by 1957, but films continued to be screened until the 26th June 1965. The last film projected was ‘Splendour in the Grass’. After movies it was bingo. Eyes down continued until the early 1980s. The auditorium part of the building was demolished and flats were built. The frontage was retained.

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk 
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ODEON BRISTOL

The Odeon Bristol, on the corner of Union Street and Broadmead, was designed by Thomas Cecil Howitt from Nottingham, and built on a part of the site of the old Fry ‘s chocolate factory, opening its doors on the 16th July 1938. (Some sources say June 1939). The plans had been approved in 1936. It was opened by Lord Apsley, who was the MP for Bristol Central at the time. The balcony was filled by guests of the management. There was nearly a thousand guests, all dressed in evening dress. Also in attendance at the Grand occasion was H.M. Royal Artillery (mounted) band. The first attraction at the 1990 seat cinema was Deanna Durbin and Herbert Marshall in Mad About Music with a Mickey Mouse cartoon called Donald’s Better Self and an interest film on the North sea. After the the film guests enjoyed a champagne supper in the auditorium and dancing on the stage. First to dance was Mr and Mrs Deutsch The film ran to packed houses for two weeks. The theatre, which also housed a restaurant was claimed to be one of the largest and most imposing Odeons’ in the west.

A feature of the building was the great circular entrance tower, which was impressive at night when it was flood lit. Canopies were a feature of the exterior and the surrounds of the entrance corner were in a special black plate glass as a contrast to the biscuit tone of the facing Material. The front entrance disclosed a circular vestibule walled in glass. There were two staircases, which lead to the upper foyer, which had a circular lounge. The auditorium was coloured in gold and blue.

Decorations included grilles incorporating symbols of Bristol Industries. There were giant stars across the roof and flood lit coves and pillars. As usual Mrs Oscar Deutsch (Lilly) was responsible for the interior decoration. It is said that no two schemes were alike. Oscar Deutsch was in attendance and declared the cinema his finest Described as a wonder cinema, it was built by John Knox (Bristol) Ltd.

 

The first manager was a Mr Beadle, who had previously managed their Canterbury theatre and was originally from Canada. Projection equipment would be the usual British Thomson Houston (BTH) set up and before digital, Cinemecanca equipment. Seating and carpeting at the time of opening was green.

Robert Parrington Jackson murdered in the Odeon cinema in 1946. Union Street, Bristol

In May 1946, a real life drama unfolded when the cinema manager a Mr Robert Parrington Jackson, aged 33 was shot during the screening of The Light that Failed. Sadly, he later died in hospital. In 1989 a petty crook confessed to the crime on his death bed.

In February 1947, actress Margaret Lockwood made a personal appearance at the cinema. The cinema equipped stereo sound in the 1950s and many big movies were screened, including South Pacific. A Royal Premier was screened in 1953. The film was Rob Roy. In May 1974 the building ‘re-opened with three screens, two of them in the stalls area. The theatre closed for redevelopment of the interior on the 15th October 1983. The stalls area was converted into a Mothercare store. The cinema re-opened in June 1985 with three screens in the balcony area with the Bond film View to a Kill in all three. It remains as a three screen cinema.

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk 
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PARAMOUNT NEWCASTLE.

Paramount Cinema Newcastle

The Paramount, later the Odeon Newcastle was described as the north’s most elaborate cinema and was officially opened on Monday 7th September 1931 with the film ‘Monte Carlo’.There was also a stage presentation by Francis A. Mangan ‘ The Ladder of Roses. The cost to build this magnificent theatre was approximately £250,000, a tremendous sum back then.

The plans submitted

The architect was Frank Thomas Verify, F.R.I.B.A, in association with his partner Samuel Beverley F.R.I.B.A. Verify designed many cinemas, including the Paramount in Paris and the Paramount, later Odeon Manchester. The proscenium width was fifty- four foot wide and thirty foot deep. One of the attractions was the Wurlitzer three manual, nineteen ranks theatre organ, which was removed in 1964. Seating was for 2,604 and a report in the BIOSCOPE dated 9th September 1931 says: As far as the seating is concerned, the minutest details have been considered to ensure the perfect comfort of patrons. The chairs have been specially designed following research work over three years. During that time hundreds of X ray photographs have been taken at the London hospitals to discover in which particular style of chair the maximum comfort can be obtained. Everything, even to the correct curvature of the spine has been carefully considered.

From the stage- The Paramount Newcastle

The Paramount Newcastle

The auditorium was decorated in the style of the Baroque period and the colour scheme consisted of blue, buffs and deep rose tints, with touches of gold, silver and marble Dutch metalling, giving it pleasing colour harmony. Regarding the auditorium, the BIOSCOPE said: It can safely be said that the interior decorations of this huge theatre are among the finest in Europe. All effects have been achieved by free painting on the walls, which has been carried out by special artists from London. All pure decoration as far back as the ancient Egyptian Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Grecian Empire, and the Roman Empire originally took this form.

Projection room at the Paramount Newcastle

The building was constructed throughout of steel and concrete and almost Fire proof. The press said: The operating room has been constructed on the Roof of the building and is adjoined with the rewinding rooms, rectifying room and generating room. The situation of the operating chamber and the provision of Fire shutters renders it impossible at any time for fire to get into the auditorium itself. The whole of the projecting room is surrounded by fourteen inch walls with portholes of Fire-resisting glass. Should an explosion occur the roof would blow off before the fire reached the auditorium. Western Electric sound apparatus has been installed.

In November 1939 all the Paramount theatres were sold to Odeon. The Newcastle theatre was re-named on 22nd April 1940. Many famous stars trod the theatre’s boards, including Billy Cotton, Joe Loss and George Formby. In 1954 Cinemascope was installed, and in the ’70s a number of pop stars belted out their songs. These included the Who and Rod Stewart. In 1975 like many others, the cinema was tripled, with 1,228 seats in screen one, which was in the circle area, and had been extended. The stalls area accommodated screens, two and three. There was 158 in screen two, and 250 in three. In 1980, a fourth screen was added, which had room for 361.

The building was a grade two listed building by 1999, and English Heritage said it was the best surviving Paramount cinema in Britain, with a well composed facade and rich interior with Lalique glass fittings. In 2001 Odeon built a new multiplex in the city and successfully applied to have the cinema De-listed to maximise the site value. The mighty Paramount/Odeon closed in 2002 and remained empty. Demolition began in December 2016. The front of the building collapsed into the Street. Luckily no one was hurt. Another fine cinema gone, now only to be seen in photographs.

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk 

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ODEON FAVERSHAM

The opening programme

Oscar Deutch’s Odeon Faversham, Kent, now the new Royal, designed by Andrew Mather (1891 to 1938), was the 117th cinema of the Odeon circuit. The doors of this Tudorbethan theatre opened on the 9th March 1936 and Adam Maitland MP, congratulated the management on the fine architectural charm of the new building. It’s elevation was in keeping with the fine old style of the surrounding features. The adjacent premises are dated 1570. Seating in the stadium style cinema was 729 – 441 of them in the raised area at the rear.

The first attraction was ‘First A Girl’, starring Jessie Matthews. The exterior is mock Tudor, which is also in the interior. The auditorium has timber framed panels. F. Stanley Bates, a director deputising for Deutch, emphasised the point that the policy of insisting that everything from floor to ceiling being British was being pursued in this case too. The technical equipment (BTH) was entirely British also. The first person to manage the cinema was a Mr George C. Stanton, and music was provided by the Faversham Borough Silver Band. From the 12th to 17th June 1939, the film ‘The Warning’ was screened. This was a film based on APR work. There was a display of ASP equipment and a map showing the organisation of the borough. Who would have known that world war was only a few months away.

In 1967 the cinema was taken over by the Classic chain and opened under that name on the 3rd December 1967. The 26th September 1969 brought another change, when Coral made use of the building for both films and bingo. At this point it was re-named the Royal cinema. Films along with bingo continued until the 1st May 1974. Films ceased with the screening of Man at the Top and a second feature with Bruce Lee called The Chinese Connection, but bingo continued as the Coral Bingo Club. Films were re-introduced from the 21st January 1979 and opened with Grease. Bingo was still retained and eyes down took place in the afternoons and some evenings. On the 8th June 1985 bingo was once again played full time. This was short lived, and two years later the building closed completely.

In August 1990 it went back on film when it was owned independently, but this was also short lived. It went on to film again, when the current owners Michael Harlow and Peter Baldock took control. They have run it since 11th February 1994, as the New Royal Cinema. On the 22nd March 1988 it was designated a Grade 2 listed building by English Heritage.

The cinema currently runs mainstream, and artier films for the Faversham Film Society on alternate Monday nights. The cinema, which now houses 440 seats has had very positive reviews. One said: A beautiful cinema in an old theatre. While they don’t show lots of movies, two showings a day, I think, it is £5 a ticket. Another says: An amazing independent cinema in Faversham. Has a rustic feel to it, and even has the old style tickets for certain films. One of the biggest screens in Kent.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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