Our latest update- AUGUST 2019

The most watched film of all time

This autumn sees the 80th anniversary of two GREAT film classics- “The Wizard Of Oz” & “Gone With The Wind”. Watch the slide show on the frame below of the studio production shots of “The Wizard Of Oz”, intermingled with stunning still shots.

                                                                          Slide show starts on this frame in a few seconds



Terry, the little female Cairn terrier that plays Toto, was paid $125 a week. While the dog’s trainer always bemoaned not asking for more (the producers were desperate to cast Terry), the residents of Munchkinland only made $50 a week. Terry was also injured during filming when one of the guards stepped on her.



Margaret Hamilton with Judy Garland

On top of the physical torture, most of the Wicked Witch’s scenes had to be edited or cut completely after being deemed to terrifying for children. (So what’s left is the un-scary version?!)



Frank Morgan in one of his five roles

Sure, you probably know that the fortune-telling Kansas professor and the Great and Powerful Oz are both actor Frank Morgan. But he was also the Emerald City cabby driving the Horse-of-a-Different-Color, a guard at the Wizard’s palace, and the doorkeeper there.


“Only Bad Witches Are Ugly”

The beautiful Billie Burke with Judy Garland

The stunning Billie Burke, who played Glinda the Good Witch of the North, was 54 years old at the time — 18 years older than her counterpart Margaret Hamilton, who portrayed the Wicked Witch of the West. Good witch, good genes.



Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow

The scarecrow face prosthetics that Ray Bolger wore left a pattern of lines on his face that took more than a year to vanish.



The first showing in Chester was at the ABC Regal in 1940

Between coming out at the tail end of The Great Depression and competing with Gone with the Wind, another 1939 release, the film barely recouped it’s $2.8 million budget. Still, the film managed to win two Oscars — for best original score and best original song.


Click to play the 1939 trailer on the above frame

Click to play the 2013 trailer on the above frame

screening dates on this trailer are now out of date



abc 1937(c)

David A Ellis researched this interesting piece regarding the preparations before the ABC Regal opened on 30th October 1937. A visiting journalist had documented the following ~

When I visited the cinema on Wednesday evening I had to pick my way beneath scaffolding. Workmen were laying the ornamental flooring in the vestibule. The balcony entrance was stacked with filing cabinets, chairs, desks wardrobes and other furnishings so necessary for the comfort of the staff.

On Thursday morning there had been a complete transformation. The carpets throughout the building are thick pile axministers with a design of Palm leaves in red and green – which against the colouring of the walls, gives a pleasing effect. The vestibule, in which there are two pay boxes is a rectangular hall in turquoise blue and cream and the lighting here is provided by seven fittings combining floodlighting and pendant lighting. Each fitting has six chromium flood-lights, which reflect on the gaily decorated fibrous plaques. The floral decorations will be in charge of Messrs Millward.


A wide staircase takes on to the balcony, which commands a magnificent view of the auditorium. The walls are shaded in peach colour stippled with gold. On each side of the stage are large grilles behind which are the pipes for the organ. Besides these there are other grilles, which provide the ventilation for this part of the cinema. The lighting of the auditorium is provided by eight troughs of one colour, and the proscenium grilles are of three colours interchangeable from red to green and blue. Here the lighting, which is controlled at will by the organist can be worked into nine different shades. On the stage the lighting is by floats and battens, again worked in three colours.



Altogether there are over two thousand bulbs. The auditorium lighting is controlled by a dead front dimmer panel from the projection room, and the curtains on the stage can be controlled from three different stations in the projection room and from two down on the stage. The seating is of the tub type with pneumatic arms and shaped backs on a darker peach colour. The Compton organ has three Manuels, and nearly two hundred stops, controlling all the different effects. The acoustics are stated to be excellent. Tests conducted during the week were very satisfactory.

David a Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk


This fine picture of the Classic cinema was taken during the 1960s. Although a small cinema, it’s frontage was most impressive, and is seen here well dressed with the publicity advertising the programme.


Once again Paul Crofts has achieved a full page spread in the Chester Chronicle regarding this important cinema organ restoration event that took place in Australia on 6th July. This skillfully researched and written article has been so well received both here and WORLDWIDE!

Paul is a regular contributor to chestercinemas.co.uk with his own Theatre Page and of course on the Compton organ page. Check out Paul’s article in full – click on this website link >>https://www.chestercinemas.co.uk/regal-organist-entertains/



The Empire theatre we know today in Livepool opened in March 1925. A few years ago it was extended when the Legs of Man pub was demolished. The 1925 building replaced the old Empire, which was demolished. The old theatre started life as the Prince of Wales Theatre, the second in Liverpool to be called that. The first was in Clayton Square. It opened on the 15th of October 1866 and was owned by The Alexandra Theatre and Opera House Company (Ltd) Liverpool.

In July 1867 the name was changed to the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Opera House in honour of Princess Alexandra, princess of Wales. The first Lessee was a Mr Alex Henderson. For many years later, it was leased by a Mr Edward Saker, and after his death by his wife. Later, still called the Alexandra, the theatre had a change of ownership.

In May 1889 it was reported that a company called The Liverpool Empire Theatre of Varieties (Ltd) were going to take it over and were offering shares. The share capital was sixty thousand pounds and the shares were one pound each. This company had nothing to do with the company who renamed the theatre to Empire. In 1894 the theatre closed and re- opened under the ownership of Empire Theatre (Liverpool) Ltd. Again this had nothing to do with the Empire that was to open later, and at that time the name Royal Alexandra Theatre and Opera House was still used.

The Alexandra was transformed into the Empire after a great deal of alteration. The theatre with its new name opened with the pantomime Cinderella on the 19th December 1896. It was now run by Moss and Thornton and became known as Moss Empires. This was demolished in 1924 and a new Empire rose from the site.



David a Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk


Chester Odeon Manager- John Ellis (left)


I knew of J W Ellis through my grandmother Ellen Whitehead. He lived with an uncle John Tomlinson at a farm in Ewloe Green, together with his brother Joe Ellis. My grandfather Samuel Parsonage Whitehead was the organist at Ewloe Green Presbyterian Chapel and ran a concert party The Green Bob’s, in the Sunday school building. Whether John and Joe were in this I don’t know, but both brothers were good singers and my grandparents had numerous musical evenings at their bungalow in Wood Lane Hawarden, which included my mother Mary Vera. J W Ellis was in the police force but then got a job as a cinema manager with Gaumont British and was certainly based at one time at the Coleseum Burslem, Staffs.

My grandmother’s brothers were all involved in the coal minding and clayware industry and often went to Staffs to stay for a holiday with uncle John Heaton and his wife and children. When there they would go to the Coleseum to see films, and as the cinema had a Compton organ John Ellis would let my grandfather play it.

John Ellis eventually returned to Chester to manage the Odeon (Gaumont British Cinemas having been taken over by Odeon) and I think his wife’s name was Noreen, and they lived in the vicinity of Walpole/ Chichester Street, I think. My grandparents when they visited Chester would often call in at the Odeon to see John Ellis. I do remember he died quite young and my grandparents and parents went to his funeral. Many of the wreaths were displayed in the florists shop over the road in Hunter Street Alderley Hall.

Roger Shone(c)chestercinemas.co.uk


In the early days of film rentals movies were hired out for a set fee. Later, they were hired out on a percentage basis. Several years ago a new release that was shown in a city centre cinema, for example an Odeon, could not be shown in another theatre, such as an independent at the same time, if the cinema was within a few miles of the Odeon; the distance probably stipulated by the renters, which was known as barring. So, independents within the barring zone relied on people not having gone and seen it when first released in one of the big circuits.

Outside of the barring zone the independent operator could show it at the same time as the ABC or Odeon several miles away. Another thing that happened in the past was films were first screened in London and could not be shown in the provinces until later. So, several weeks could pass before, for example, Liverpool screened the film. Even in London the film was screened in the West End first, and later in the suburbs at different periods in time. For example, it would be shown in East London on a different date to South London, even if the theatres were both Odeon or ABC.

When films were first released the percentage was higher than it was on a re- release. In some cases a re- release was offered on a flat fee basis. Great for the exhibitor if the house was full. Unfortunately, we no longer have films re- released into the cinema world, because after a very short run they are put on DVD. Gone are the days when a double bill of James Bond went back into the cinema years after they were released. These double bills usually attracted good audiences.This, unfortunately doesn’t give us the chance to again experience these in the cinema on the big screen, if not seen. We have to catch films within a short time frame if we want the big screen experience. Also, long gone is the Sunday for one day only shows. These were usually old films and were usually hired out at a set fee. Many of these screenings did well, so was good for the exhibitor. Not so good for the projectionist, who sometimes had to deal with worn prints. These shows were, main feature shown twice, second feature once. Today, we only have one film and no continuous performances.

A few years back we were treated to two features, news and sometimes a cartoon. A long film was sometimes accompanied by a short documentary. There was also among others, Pathe News, Gaumont British News, Universal News, Look at Life and Mining Review. Big films (and still do) often commanded high percentage rates, meaning the cinema would need good houses to make a good profit. Often in years gone by when cinemas usually screened pictures for only a week, we would see retained for second great week. Usually this was a case of the cinema having to screen it for two weeks, agreed by the renter.

Today, the provinces get to see the film at the same time as everyone else. The quality of images is now consistent due to digital. Gone are the days when a patron would have to put up with a badly scratched film with joins and dialogue missing. Everyone gets to see scratch free digital images.

David a Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

abc puss in boots.CR A MUSICAL BLAST FROM THE PAST!images (1)

Peter Davies writes~ Roger Shone has uncovered this local press advert for “Puss In Boots” which was staged for six days from Monday 12th January 1970 at the ABC.

guy mitchell

I worked on that show,and remember that there was just one days rehearsal on the Sunday. Ticket sales were good as people remembered Guy Mitchell, and his records from the 50s~~”My Heart Cries for You” (1950) “The Roving Kind” (1951) “My Truly, Truly Fair” (1951) “Sparrow In The Treetop” (1951) “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” (1952) “She Wears Red Feathers” (1953) “Belle, Belle, My Liberty Belle” (1951) “Feet Up (Pat Him On The Po-po)” (1952)”Singing The Blues”(1956). He was a major recording star from the USA, selling well over 44 million records world wide.

“Puss In Boots” was a large production with a full orchestra, and for the technicians it was a welcomed change from the pop shows that were still playing at very regular intervals.  Guy Mitchell was a great person both on and off stage.  Unfortunately, his voice was beginning to falter, so he relied heavily on his backing singers. The audience loved it all, but it was the one and only pantomime for the ABC.

Peter Davies©chestercinemas.co.uk