Liverpool, L25 5JH
Date opened: 26th December 1927.
Original owners: Alfred Adams/Woolton Picture House Co Ltd.
Architect: Lionel A G Pritchard, ARIBA.
Construction costs: £10.000.
Seating capacity: 711.
First film shown: Unknown.
Permanent closure due to the Covid 19 pandemic announced in July 2020 .
Located south-east of Liverpool’s city centre, nestling in a conservation area at 3 Mason Street, situated between Woolton Street and Church Road.
On 26th August 1926, Alfred Adams, founder of the Woolton Picture House Co Ltd, announced plans for the cinema. He commissioned Liverpool architect Lionel A G Pritchard, ARIBA, to draw up the plans for his venture with a budget of £10.000. The intention was for a cinema that would seat in excess of 800 customers, but the final capacity on opening fell short of this figure.
By March of the following year construction work was underway. A conditional licence had been granted by magistrates that the building was to be completed within a six month timescale. The design was both unique and unusual as it had to accommodate the building on a steeply slopping site.
The single level facade was adjacent to the length of the auditorium. The steps of the main entrance increased in number towards the right-hand side of the doors which emphasized the slope. The frontage was in a dark brick colour and had a central section of glazed white terracotta immediately above the canopy where the cinema’s name was mounted.
The steel and glass canopy sporting two shields was splayed back towards the wall. The cash desk was positioned centrally and was so set out that it was easy to direct the customers to the appropriate divisions for the differently priced seats. The original admission prices ranged between 6d & 1/-.
In the stadium style 711 seat auditorium the architect had taken full advantage of the sloping site to accommodate the rake that was required for customers to view the screen comfortably. The width of the proscenium was 27′, and had a small stage that was purely intended for film presentation only. The projection room extended out into the rear of the auditorium over the seats in the stalls, and was supported by pillars.
The Woolton Picture House opened on 26th December 1927, with a now long forgotten silent feature film. Sound equipment was installed in the early 1930s causing a reduction in seating to 673 as the screen had to be moved forward to enable speakers to be placed behind.
A change of ownership happened towards the late 1930s when the new proprietors were Weller and Stevenson Theatres who were based at Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks. Their tenure lasted through the 1940s heyday of cinema. The first press advertisement for the Woolton cinema appeared on 23rd January 1947. The cinema acquired a new owner in 1954 and was handed to a well known and respected independent operator, Robert H Godfrey. Together with his son, who was joint managing director, Robert Godfrey had established in 1922, the small well run circuit of Cheshire County Cinemas. The Woolton cinema continued to flourish under the control of CCC. Godfrey spared no expense when equipping the technical side of his cinemas. CinemaScope was installed at the Woolton for the opening of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” on 31st October 1955.
Like most cinemas during the difficult years of the 1950s, the Woolton suffered drops in admissions. Two fires occurred at the building, the most serious one caused severe damage to the stage end of the auditorium forcing the cinema to close for three months to allow the extensive repairs to take place. The reconstruction enabled the installation of a larger screen with luxurious curtaining that extended out from the proscenium.
During the 1980s, CCC lavishly refurbished the cinema with new de-luxe broad backed Pullman seating which significantly reduced the capacity down to 256. Space between the rows was increased to give extra leg room and together with additional changes such as a new wall to wall screen, and deep pile luxurious carpeting, gave the Woolton more scope to meet the new challenges being made from the multiplex competition.
Cheshire County Cinemas sold the cinema during 1991 to concentrate their attention on the Regal twin cinema at Northwich. With the Woolton’s future in doubt, there was delight when locals discovered that David Wood, whose grandfather founded the J F Wood cinema circuit and was responsible for some of Liverpool’s quality suburban cinemas, was to take over the cinema on 10th January 1992.
Following the death of David Wood, the Woolton cinema closed on 3rd September 2006 and placed on the market. A consortium of local businessmen bought the cinema, re-opening it on 29th March 2007 with it’s original name – the Woolton Cinema Picture House. The cinema was voted within the Guardian newspaper’s Top 20 “Best Film Venues in the UK”. The national newspaper described the Woolton Picture House as “Britain’s art deco gem”.
In March 2009, the cinema was used in the film “Nowhere Boy”, a biopic of John Lennon’s early life.
The cinema celebrated the film Premier of the Blockbuster movie “Madrasapattinam” with film stars hosting the cinema’s red carpet event in 2010.
The Woolton Picture House continues to move forward with the introduction of digital projection, new screen and sound equipment that further enhances the customers enjoyment. However, retaining it’s uniqueness in presenting movies in the traditional manner makes it well worth the effort to drive past the bland multiplexes and experience what cinema was really like, and indeed should be like!
WOOLTON PICTURE HOUSE, was until July 2020 Liverpool’s oldest surviving single screen cinema.
The popular Woolton Picture House first opened in 1927 but has had to close after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic took its toll. Staff said the “devastating and unforeseen circumstances” have resulted in the cinema having to close permanently.
The art-deco cinema is set in a residential street in the beautiful village of Woolton, where it has been the backdrop for first dates, Christmas traditions and more.
The sad news was confirmed in an emotional post on Facebook this afternoon. On the Woolton Picture House page, the announcement reads:
To all our dear customers.
We are all aware of the severity of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on all. It is as a result of these devastating and unforeseen circumstances that we must inform you of our toughest decision to permanently close Woolton picture House.
The wonderful Woolton Picture House will always hold a sentimental place in all our hearts. Many happy moments and wonderful memories have been created at the cinema during the 93 years it has been open; from first dates to couples 100th date, first childhood cinematic experiences, to wedding days and family gatherings at Christmas.
It has been our sincere delight to have had the pleasure to welcome you all time & again and we whole heartedly thank you for your gracious presence and kind support, that over the years has enabled the cinema to remain open. But it is now with great sorrow that we are to close our wonderful red doors. We will forever remember and think fondly of a place that allowed us to share time with the Hollywood stars, be absorbed into other worlds and leave reality behind for a short time.
We will not say goodbye to you or our beloved cinema but instead “you had me at hello”.