Liverpool, L4 4AY
Original owners: Victory Picture House Company.
Capacity: Balcony-330. Stalls-800. Total= 1130 seats.
Date opened: Wednesday 4th October 1922.
Opening film: “The Birth of a Nation” starring Lillian Gish and Mae Marsh.
First sound film shown: Monday 3rd February 1930. “Broadway Melody” starring Anita Page and Charles King,
Acquired by Associated British Cinema Ltd: September 1935.
CinemaScope installed: Monday 3rd October 1955. “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” starring Howard Keel, Jane Powell and Russ Tamblyn.
Date Closed: Saturday 29th July 1961.
Final films shown: “Son of Ali Baba” starring Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie, also “Rip Van Winkle” starring Jamie Uys and Wynona Cheyney.
Demolished: Retail building now occupy the site.
The proprietors of the Victory Picture House Company secured a site that was positioned on this busy thoroughfare that was used by numerous tram car routes. Their modestly sized silent cinema was logistically well placed being just three miles from the city centre of Liverpool.
Generous glass and metal verandas gave cover to those in queues along Walton Road and Luton Grove. These led to the main entrance that was framed by pillars, and followed the curve of the corner, with a paybox placed centrally with two sets of glass framed doors placed either side that led patrons into a small vestibule, then into the stall’s foyer and balcony staircase.
The facades were structured in red brick. Window recesses were framed with wide stonework. Over the corner entrance the walls were rendered in a light colour. A further entrance to the front stalls was situated on the shorter reach elevation on Luton Grove.
The cinema’s original seating capacity was 330 seats in the balcony and a further 800 seats in the stalls, achieving a total capacity of 1130. In the general design of cinemas, the architect first sites a central line to the proscenium, then designs around the central line to achieve a symmetrical plan that gives the customer a comfortable viewing position no matter where they are seated. Unusually, this was not the case at the Victory. The proscenium was set noticeably to the left of centre of the wide auditorium, leaving unequal splay walls, and indeed a lopsided hall with the seating on both levels having to be extended on the right-hand side.
The screen end section of the high ceiling was block stone vaulted, with the rear section over the balcony being plain with render covering the girders. A dado of framed panelling around the stalls walls was topped by a frieze of six broad horizontal ribbed bands of plasterwork. Above the frieze was a deep plain border. On the upper reaches of the unequal splay wall were stumpy pilasters that were placed between rectangular bordered panels that met the carved cornice of the ceiling.
The curtained proscenium was disappointingly small. The screen was set high within the proscenium, measuring just 17’x 13’. The projection beam throw between the screen and projector was 80’.
The Gala afternoon opening took place on Wednesday 4th October 1922. Martinique and his Orchestra provided the background music and effects to the first silent feature film shown, the 1915 version of “The Birth of a Nation” starring Lillian Gish and Mae Marsh.
The cinema enjoyed buoyant business for the first few years before more competition opened up nearby.
click on the above frame to sample “Broadway Melody”
The Victory installed Western Electric Sound and showed “Broadway Melody” starring Anita Page and Charles King, on Monday 3rd February 1930. This gave a dramatic boost to admissions. However, the company had decided to build and manage the 1586 seat Astoria super cinema on the opposite side of Walton Road, which opened on 21st July 1930. Showing the prime releases this contributed to the dilution of the Victory’s patronage.
Five years later, both the Astoria and Victory cinemas were taken over by the ABC circuit in September 1935. In the auditorium the company fixed small ABC Victory triangle signs on the pilasters on the splay walls. The newsreel was shared between the two cinemas.
To achieve CinemaScope the screen frame and proscenium were enlarged to a width of 30’. This meant that the seating capacity was reduced to 1113 seats. The 1954 feature “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” starring Howard Keel, Jane Powell and Russ Tamblyn was the first CinemaScope picture to be shown at the Victory on Monday 3rd October 1955.
click on the above frame to sample “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”
Even the introduction of this new format did little to halt the decline in admissions. Several cinemas nearby had closed down which bolstered the admissions for a few years, but the inevitable decision was taken to close the Victory Cinema on Saturday 29th July 1961. The films shown on the final day were “Son of Ali Baba” starring Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie, also “Rip Van Winkle” starring Jamie Uys and Wynona Cheyney.
The building was demolished and the site used for retail.
The cinema business continued at the Astoria until it closed on Saturday 23rd February 1974.