Wallasey, CH45 3LG
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.
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.
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.
David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk