Widnes, WA8 6JS
Date opened: Monday 14th June 1915
Date Closed: 13th February 1960.
Owner: Mr E R Richards.
Re-design Architects: William and Segar Owen from Warrington.
Total seating capacity: 735 seats.
Main Building Contractor: Davey and Co Runcorn.
First General Manager: Lester Haggard.
Final General Manager: John Harrison.
First film shown: “Jewel of Fate”.
Final film shown: “’Lady From Shanghai” starring Rita Hayworth.
Widnes was home to a number of cinemas before many of them shut their doors when movie going took a down turn. The Premier cinema was situated in Albert Road and opened for business on the Monday 14th June 1915 with the film ‘Jewel of Fate’. The proscenium was thirty five feet wide and ten feet deep. There was one dressing room.
The building cost neatly four thousand pounds and was opened by the Mayor councillor D. Lewis at 2.30pm. The sole proprietor was a Mr E R Richards. The building was fifty one feet wide and around ninety feet long. The height was twenty feet. There were five stone steps leading to massive swing doors. Around the entrance the decorations were in cream and green tiles with hangings in gold silk plush with gold trimmings. The paybox was made of mahogany. Around the screen the decorations were in silk plush, black and pink rose. Under the screen stood a bank of flowers. Seating at the back was mahogany. The second class seats were in electric blue velvet . The third class seats were crimson velvet and in front were tip up forms in green leather. At the back of the auditorium were two family boxes with plaster columns upholstered in pink with curtains to match. Internal furnishings were in the hands of Lautenberg and Sons Widnes. A ladies orchestra provided the music to the silent images.
The cinema was built by Davey and Co Runcorn. The first person to manage the hall was a Mr Lester Haggard and performances were at 7pm and 9pm.
The first Talkie was Interference screened from the 21St October 1929.The second Talkie was Broadway Melody, then Al Jolson in The Singing Fool. The Premier was the first Widnes cinema to show Talkies. It was equipped with Kalee machines. The Kine Yearbook of 1931 says the sound was Western Electric (WE). However, the Bioscope magazine states British Talking Picture (BTP).
In July 1937 the Premier had a makeover, becoming the New Premier. The Widnes Cinemas Ltd sponsored the work and it was taken over by Cheshire County Cinemas, another to add to their growing list. The building was redesigned by William and Segar Owen from Warrington, taking six weeks for the transformation. A new canopy was installed, decorated in blue and cream. The paybox also underwent changes.
There were three pairs of doors leading to the auditorium, each with an oval amber tinted glass panel. The auditorium was coloured gold, blue and pink. The extensive alterations were carried out by a Mr Fred Smith of Farnworth. The colour scheme was by Thomas Fox ans Sons of Widnes. Harold Cookson became the manager, later managing the Plaza. The New Premier, known as the cosiest cinema in town opened on July 26th 1937 with the film ‘The Plainsman’.
The cinema finally closed its doors on the 13th February 1960 with the films ‘Lady From Shanghai’ and ‘Five Steps to Danger’. It was managed by a Mr John Harrison at the time of closure.
On 20th June 2001, it was opened as ‘The Premier’ as part of the J.D. Wetherspoon chain of pubs.
David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk