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Why is the name of the film actor you puzzled about always the last one in the credits?

This page features a history of the cinemas in Warrington.
Reader memories can be found further down the page.
If you have any memories of working in or visiting
any of the cinemas please feel free to Email me.

The last time I was in a cinema believe it or not was 37 years ago! I saw 'Jane Eyre' starring Orson Wells and Joan Fonteyn at the Odeon (Jane Eyre being my favourite book of all time). For some unknown reason since childhood, I always came away from the cinema with a violent migraine ...maybe the bright flashing screen, I don't know, anyway I was expecting my eldest child, very near my time but couldn't resist seeing 'Jane'. Don't need to tell you I suffered afterwards and haven't been in a cinema since. (Reader requested that their name wasn't displayed.)

Featured on this page
Introduction Futurist/Regent Palace Queens Cinemas That Never Were
AMC/UCI/Odeon Westbrook Gem Picture House Park Ritz/ABC The Future
Central Grand Pavilion Star Kinema Save The Ritz/Mr Smith's
Drill Hall New Picture House Picturedrome/Cameo Cinemas (table) Reader Memories
Empire Odeon Warrington Premier Camera Rigs Other Warrington Cinema Facts

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The cinemas are listed in alphabetical order in the table above.
If they were known by more than one name then the earliest
name is shown first. The cinemas are described in more detail
below in the order they were opened and to the best of my
knowledge. Some information is incomplete and I hope to fill
in the gaps over time. If you can help, please Email me.

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I am extremely grateful to Ken Roe, Volunteer Theatre Editor of http://cinematreasures.org/ for allowing me to reproduce his notes on
the mywarrington website, which are incorporated into my own research.
I have also give reference to A Warrington Chronology by David Forrest
for further information on opening and closing dates of cinemas.

Some of the entries have more than one date for opening/closing/demolition, depending on the source. Therefore, mywarrington accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of the information supplied, which is reproduced in good faith. Please note that I only own copyright for the photos with my name on.
It is not always possible to locate the copyright owners for other photos. Unfortunately, some are very poor quality and I don't have better ones. If you do,
and are willing to share them with the good folk of Warrington, then email me.
If I have used yours and you would prefer me to remove it, then I will do so.
Or if you are happy for me to continue using them to illustrate the text and would like a credit, then please email me and I will be happy to add appropriate notes.

Introduction

Since the dawn of civilisation, mankind has learned to communicate and tell a story using words, images, sounds and gestures. The earliest such figurative paintings in Europe date back to the Aurignacian period, approximately 30,000 to 32,000 years ago, and are found in the Chauvet Cave in France.

The "ancient craft of communicating events and experiences, using words, images, sounds and gestures" by telling a story is not only the means by which people passed on their cultural values and traditions and history from one generation to another, it has been an important part of most forms of entertainment ever since the earliest times. Stories are still told in the early forms, for example, around a fire while camping, or when listening to the stories of another culture as a tourist. The earliest storytelling sequences we possess, now of course, committed to writing, were undoubtedly originally a speaking from mouth to ear and their force as entertainment derived from the very same elements we today enjoy in films and novels. Open air theatres were a popular place for entertainment in the days of the ancient Greeks and later the Romans.

The first permanent theatre in Warrington opened in Scotland Road on 21 December 1818. The Public Hall opened in Rylands Street in November 1862, and Charles Dickens appeared there in 1869. The theatre was a very popular place for entertainment.

Meanwhile, experiments were being conducted to turn the art of still photography into moving pictures. On 19 June 1873, Englishman Eadweard Muybridge successfully photographed a horse named "Sallie Gardner" in fast motion using a series of 24 stereoscopic cameras. The cameras were arranged along a track parallel to the horse's, and each camera shutter was controlled by a trip wire triggered by the horse's hooves. They were 21 inches apart to cover the 20 feet taken by the horse stride, taking pictures at one thousandth of a second. This experiment also proved that all four of the horse's feet were off the ground at the same time (see images, right).

cinemas_The_Horse_in_Motion.jpg (112663 bytes)

Nine years later, in 1882, French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey invented a chronophotographic gun, which was capable of taking 12 consecutive frames a second, recording all the frames of the same picture. The second experimental film, Roundhay Garden Scene, filmed by Louis Le Prince on 14 October 1888 in Roundhay, Leeds is the earliest surviving motion picture.

The first though to design a successful apparatus was W. K. L. Dickson, working under the direction of Thomas Alva Edison, called the Kinetograph, and patented in 1891. 

The Horse in Motion
 
photo is in the Public Domain 

Eadweard Muybridge -
Library of Congress Prints
and Photographs Division; http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a45870

Reproduced from Wikipedia

This camera took a series of instantaneous photographs on standard Eastman Kodak photographic emulsion coated onto a transparent celluloid strip 35mm wide. The results of this work were first shown in public in 1893, using the viewing apparatus also designed by Dickson, and called the Kinetoscope. Contained within a large box, only one person at a time looking into it through a peephole could view the movie. It was not a commercial success but in the following year, Charles Francis Jenkins and his projector, the Phantoscope, made a successful audience viewing while Louis and Auguste Lumière perfected the Cinématographe, an apparatus that took, printed, and projected film in Paris in December 1895.  

In the infancy of motion pictures, the cinematographer was usually also the director and the person physically handling the camera. As the art form and technology progressed, a separation between director and camera operator emerged. With the advent of artificial lighting and faster (more light sensitive) film stocks, in addition to technological advancements in optics, the technical aspects of cinematography necessitated a specialist in that area.

Cinematography was key during the silent movie era—with no sound apart from background music and no dialogue, the films depended on lighting, acting, and set.

cinemas_film_reels_2.jpg (41349 bytes) The year 1927 was a milestone in cinematography with the release of The Jazz Singer, the first talking picture or "talkie", starring Al Jolson. Earlier in his career at the Winter Gardens on Broadway he would tell the audience, "You ain't heard nothing yet" before performing additional songs.

However, for some movie performers, the talkie signalled the end of their careers because their voice just didn't fit the new medium. Of course, it didn't matter in the silent era because they couldn't be heard. Therefore, on the whole, only the most eloquent speakers would succeed.

And of course, everything was in black and white in 1927. Or was it? You would think that images recorded in colour would come after black and white. But you'd be surprised.
The world's first colour moving pictures dating from 1902 have been found by the National Media Museum in Bradford after lying forgotten in a tin for 110 years. The films were made by Edward Raymond Turner from London, who patented his colour process on 22 March, 1899. Some of the footage features Mr Turner's children in the garden of their home in Hounslow. You can view the footage at the BBC website. And make sure you visit the museum in Bradford.
So what next in the progression of cinematography? One innovation was 3D. And no, Sky didn't get there first. Again, it goes back to the days before the talkies. The earliest confirmed 3D film shown to an out-of-house audience was The Power of Love, which premiered at the Ambassador Hotel Theatre in Los Angeles on 27 September 1922. My mum and dad remember going to watch 3-D films at the pictures when they were kids.

So what about stereo or multi-channel sound in films? 

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In 1937, Bell Laboratories in New York City gave a demonstration of two-channel stereophonic motion pictures, developed by Bell Labs and Electrical Research Products, Inc. Walt Disney also began experimenting with multi-channel sound in the early 1930s. The first commercial motion picture to be exhibited with stereophonic sound was Walt Disney's Fantasia, released in November 1940, for which a specialized sound process (Fantasound) was developed. Fantasound used a separate film containing four optical sound tracks. Three of the tracks were used to carry left, centre and right audio, while the fourth track carried three tones which individually controlled the volume level of the other three.

cinemas_film_reels_3.jpg (52602 bytes) Nowadays everybody is familiar with Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound. In a nutshell, instead of two channels of sound, you have six or even eight separate speakers linked to a sound processor in the DVD or Blu-ray player and the amplifier. The familiar 5.1 surround sound system has a left and right speaker either side of the screen, a centre speaker close to the screen where most of the dialogue comes from, and two speakers behind the viewer. The sixth speaker is the subwoofer where all the low-frequency (bass) sounds come from. I am told the human ear can only pick up low-frequency sounds from one direction, so that's why you only need one speaker for that, and it doesn't really matter where you position it. That is the .1 of the 5.1 set. 
Some movies are now made in 7.1 surround (such as Noah starring Russell Crowe). This system uses two extra speakers, one each side of the viewer, in line with the hearing position. And it sounds good too.

Some information from Wikipedia

So we have the lights, the cameras and the action. Now let's put it into all together and take a look at the cinemas that have existed in Warrington over the years.

Palace Cinema (1)

15-17 Friars Gate, Warrington, WA1 2RR.

Opened Sep 1907. Closed 1964. Building still in use.

1 screen. 1,100 seats.

cinemas_01_palace_3.JPG (57105 bytes)

The New Palace Theatre & Hippodrome opened on 23 September 1907, and was part of the MacNaghten Vaudeville Circuit. The opening production featured John Tiller’s High Jinks Company. Films were shown as part of the programme during the early years.

Designed by architect George F. Ward, there were two balconies, a box on each side of the proscenium and Baroque style plasterwork. A proscenium, for those not in the know, is the part of a theatre stage in front of the curtain. It was converted into the Palace Cinema in early 1931, opening with Ben Lyon in Hell’s Angels”. The upper balcony wasn’t used when it was a cinema. Entrance to the small projection room was through a door at the side of the building. It was a long climb to the box; you got to it via the upper balcony. A fire in 1954 damaged the circle and upper balcony levels, but repairs were made and it reopened as the New Palace Cinema. The author of these notes worked there as a young projectionist in 1964. The projectors were by Fedi, the sound by RCA and the carbon arcs were supplied by Peerless Magnarc. Chief projectionist was a Mr Joe Slevin. Closed in 1957 when the MacNaghten Vaudeville Circuit ceased operation, it remained closed for three years.

It was purchased by the Hutchinson circuit in 1960 and re-opened with Shirley Jones in Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma” on 25 March 1961. The Palace Cinema closed on 7 November 1964 with the film  “The Camp on Blood Island” starring Andre Morell.

It then became a Surewin bingo hall, operated by Hutchinson’s. Admission price of three shillings included the playing of ten games with no limit to winnings. And for only three shillings and fivepence you could enjoy a pack of 20 Park Drive cigarettes. From 1977 it was known as the Apollo Bingo and Social Club until it closed in 1997. After a few years of lying empty, it became Brannigans nightclub, which is now Showbar.

Contributed by DAVID A ELLIS, Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy.

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Brannigans 30 May 2003.

The Park Picture Palace (2)

Sankey Street, Warrington, WA1 1PL.

Opened Apr 1910. Closed by 1914 and demolished in the 1970s.

1 screen. 500 seats.

cinemas_02_the_park.jpg (67688 bytes)

Located on Sankey Street opposite Bank Park, the Park Picture Palace was opened in April 1910. It was closed during World War I, and never re-opened.

It became a motor cycle depot. Demolished around the 1970s, an office block named Hilden House now stands on the site.

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy.  

The cinema as
seen from the
approach road to
the Town Hall. The
cinema site was
replaced with
Hilden House.

Picturedrome/Cameo Cinema (3)

83 Sankey Street, Warrington, WA1 1SL.

Opened Jun 1910. Closed 1956. Building still in use.

1 screen. 384 seats.

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Located on Sankey Street at the corner of Springfield Street, the Picturedrome was opened in June 1910 by Sir Gilbert Greenall. It had an ornate stone and terracotta front.

The facade was re-modelled in the 1930s.

It became a television rental shop known as Tellyhire, later Visionhire, and later Jones & Chapman estate agent.

Today, much altered, it serves as Eden Italian restaurant and Paul Kemp hairdressing.

cinemas_03_picturedrome_cameo_2.JPG (61290 bytes)
As Tellyhire,
later Visionhire 
1950s to 1980s
cinemas_03_picturedrome_cameo_030523.JPG (91568 bytes)

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy.       

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The cinema As Jones & Chapman estate agent 23 May 2003.

       As Eden Restaurant/Paul Kemp hair salon 19 Sep 2011

Grand Electric Theatre/Grand Cinema (4)

Wilderspool Causeway, Warrington, WA1 6PT.

Opened 11 July 1910. Closed and demolished 1952.

1 screen. 600 seats (another source say 1,188 seats).

cinemas_04_grand_3.JPG (82411 bytes)

The Grand Electric Theatre was opened on 11 July 1910 (another source says 1913). It was re-named the New Grand Cinema from 13 November 1922. Taken over by the Associated British Cinemas (ABC) chain in December 1930, Western Electric sound equipment was installed and it was re-named the New Grand Super Cinema. The Grand was particularly attractive to courting couples. It had double seats, which would allow for a kiss and a cuddle without the arm of the seat coming between them.

ABC sold the cinema to a group of local businessmen in 1940, and as the Grand Cinema it was closed by them in March 1952 [another source says 13 Aug 1952] when the final film was “Fury of the Congo”. 

My dad tells me the story that every time a train went past the whole building shook.

It was demolished to widen the road and the bridge.

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy.

My thanks to Mr Bolton for originally reminding me about The Grand at Wilderspool Causeway.
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Pavilion Cinema (5)

6 Lovely Lane, Warrington, WA5 1NF.

Opened Sep 1912. closed 1957. Building still in use.

1 screen. 600 seats.

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Located on Lovely Lane near the corner of Green Street in Whitecross, The Electric Pavilion was opened in early September 1912. It had a 22 feet wide proscenium. 

Last operated by the Liverpool-based chain of W.J. Speakman, it was closed around 1957, and became a timber merchants. It was later turned into a motor showroom, was a Trident electrical store and in the 1980s it served as Bike City cycle shop. Today it operates as a carpet store for J.H. & E. Robinson.

The Pavilion on Lovely Lane was known as the Flea Pit. Does anybody know why? Here is one suggestion from Albert Hickson: it is believed that any cinema might have been called The Flea Pit in those days. People packed in close proximity to each other made it easy for fleas to jump from one person to another. Some cinemas might get a worse reputation than others. Can you add to Albert's suggestion?

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy, with thanks to Graeme for supporting memories.

Images top to bottom: The Pavilion as a cycle shop (white building on the left), 10 Aug 1995.
Second view is a close-up of the cycle shop. And finally as a carpet shop on 10 Sep 2006.

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Central Picture Palace (6)

78 Sankey Street, Warrington, WA1 1SG.

Opened Jul 1913. Closed 1916.

1 screen. 500 seats.

cinemas_06_central_030523.jpg (144181 bytes)

Originally built as a hall for the Victorian Conservative Club, by July 1913 it was operating as the Central Picture Palace. It was also used as a dance hall at one time.

Located above Hewitt's furniture store opposite Dawsons in Sankey Street, it opened on Saturdays for children’s matinees. Admission was tuppence or two clean jam jars. It was closed in the 1960s. 

The entrance to the cinema has since been Marshall's restaurant, later Jeniric's Chinese Restaurant, and is now occupied by Agave Rum Bar.

cinemas_06_central.jpg (75805 bytes)
Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy.

 

Top 23 May 2003.
Bottom as Hewitt's
furniture store.

The New Picture House Cinema (7)

Winmarleigh Street, Warrington, WA1 1NB.

Opened 7 Jul 1913.

No further information is currently available. Can you help? Email me.

Star Kinema (8)

76 Church Street, Warrington, WA1 2TH.

Opened Jan 1914. Closed 1958. Demolished later after further use.

1 screen. 627 seats.

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The Star Kinema opened in January 1914 with 650 seats. [I assume the number of seats was reduced over time.] It was designed by Manchester based architect G.H. Kay. Some variety shows were held on the stage which was only 6 feet deep, and there were two dressing rooms.

The cinema used to interchange films between the Picturedrome in Sankey Street. When part one of the film was over, a lad would cycle with a can of film from one cinema to the other to exchange it, enabling the two cinemas to show the same film on the same day.

The Star Kinema was closed in 1958, never having been equipped to screen CinemaScope films, and it became Catterall’s woodwork shop.

It was later demolished, and Apple Court Nursing Home now stands on the site.

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy. Many thanks to Peter Spilsbury for use of his photo.

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Queen's Picture House (9)

Orford Lane, Warrington, WA2 7BA.

Opened 1914. Closed 28 May 1960 and Demolished.

1 screen. 1,179 seats.

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Located on Orford Lane near Longford Street and Rhodes Street, the Queen's Picture House was opened around 1914. [Another source gives the date as 18 September 1916.]

Seating was provided in stalls and circle levels, and the proscenium was 33 feet wide. When it was equipped with Western Electric sound equipment in the early-1930s, it was re-named Queen's Talkie Picture Theatre, later reverting back to Queens Picture House.

The Queen's was closed on Saturday 28 May 1960. It was the 8th picture house in Warrington to close due to the impact of television. A projectionist for Wirral Picturedromes Ltd of Wallasey who owned the Queen’s said attendances had been falling for three years. He also said that for some unknown reason more cinemas in the north-west have closed than anywhere else in Great Britain.

The Queen's was demolished and a petrol station was built on the site, which by 2011 was a car wash. The bus stop outside is still know as The Queens.

Whether its official name was Queen's or Queens is up for debate as two separate photos show it with both variants (see right).

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy.

The two lower images gives us the poser, was it Queen's......or Queens?

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CLICK ON EMAIL OR FEMAIL TO CONTACT ME

The Gem Picture House (10)

Sankey Street/Winmarleigh Street, Warrington, WA1.

Opened 17 Jan 1916. Closed and Demolished 1960s.

1 screen. 40 seats.

cinemas_10_gem.JPG (64512 bytes)

The Gem, which only had 40 seats, became Blighty's, which was part of the Conservative Club on the corner of Sankey Street. Hilden House now stands on the site.

No further information is currently available. Can you help? Email me.

Futurist/Regent Cinema (11)

3 Scotland Road, Warrington, WA1 2AF.

Opened Jan 1921. Closed 1958. Demolished 1980s.

1 screen. 543 seats.

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Located next to the Prince of Wales hotel, the Theatre Royal was opened on 21 December 1818. It was in use as a Mechanics Institute from 1836 to 1846. It was also known as the Regent Old Time Music Hall for a time. No dates are available to me for when it was the music hall. It was known to locals as The Blood Tub, apparently because of the macabre shows that were sometimes staged there.

In 1872 it was re-named the Price of Wales Theatre and was enlarged in 1883. Around 1900 it became the Royal Theatre of Varieties, and Charlie Chaplin appeared on the stage. On 9 December 1907 "animated pictures" were shown when it was still known as the Royal Theatre of Varieties. The proscenium was 18 feet wide, and on top of it were statues of two male figures. The front of the circle was decorated with plaster cherubs.

On 3 January 1921 it was opened as the Futurist Cinema. The projection box and managers office were located in the adjacent Prince of Wales hotel.

In late 1939 it was taken over by the Southan Morris chain and became part of their S.M. Super Cinemas chain and re-named the Regent Cinema. It was closed suddenly on 28 September 1958.

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The building was converted into the Tudor Bingo Club, which remained open until the late 1980s. Later demolished, the site today is used for car parking, but a fraction of the left hand side of the facade remains attached to the Prince of Wales hotel.  

The scene in the top view
 looks towards Golborne
Street in the 1970s, which
no longer exists due to
the expansion of Golden
Square Shopping Centre
between 2005 and 2007.

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy.  Many thanks to Peter Spilsbury for use of his photo.

Empire Cinema (12)

Buttermarket Street, Warrington, WA1 2LY.

Opened Oct 1921. Closed 1961 and demolished.

1 screen. Seating information not available.

cinemas_12_empire.jpg (58154 bytes)

The Empire Picture Theatre was opened on 10 October 1921 with Anna Q. Nilsson in “Why Girls Leave Home”. There was a billiards and snooker hall in the basement.

In 1955 the Empire Cinema was the first in Warrington to be equipped with CinemaScope. It was closed on 11 October 1961 with Pat Boone in “All Hands on Deck”’ The building was demolished and a Halford’s store was built on the site. The site is currently occupied by Heron Foods supermarket and the Salvation Army charity shop.

The Empire was the only cinema in Warrington to have four track magnetic sound. There was a sign at the side of the cinema stating that it was the only cinema in Warrington with stereophonic sound.

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy, with thanks to David A. Ellis, former Palace projectionist, for the final paragraph.

The view of the cinema
from Bank Street.

It was one of those
buildings that begs
the question:

WHY did they
knock it down?

Photo copyright unknown. Contact me for a credit.

Premier Cinema (13)

24 Powell Street, Latchford, Warrington, WA4 1LA.

Opened Jan 1922. Closed 1959. Building still exists.

1 screen. 460 seats.

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Located in Powell Street, Latchford, the Premier Cinema opened on 30 October 1922. It had an 18 feet-wide proscenium.

The Premier Cinema was closed in September 1959. It was then used by a furniture removals firm. The building now has a new facade and a planning application to demolish it and replace it with houses is available to view on the Warrington Borough Council website.

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy. Colour photo taken 10 Oct 2012

cinemas_13_premier_120410.JPG (101086 bytes)

Drill Hall Cinema (14)

5 Church Road, Lymm, WA13 0QG.

Opened 30 Oct 1922. Closed 30 June 1962.

1 Screen. 670 seats, later 560 seats.

cinemas_14_drill_hall.jpg (90487 bytes)

Located in the village of Lymm, the building was originally built as a drill hall. By the 1920s it was used by travelling showmen, who exhibited films there. By the mid-1920s, it was a full time cinema, known as the Drill Hall Cinema. Seating was provided for 670 people. The proscenium was 22 feet wide, the stage was 20 feet deep and there were four dressing rooms.

By the 1930s a cafe had been added and it was re-named Cinema. Once CinemaScope had been fitted, the Cinema had a seating capacity for 560 people. It was closed in the early-1960s, and was converted into a potato factory, making potato chips for sale in fish & chip shops.

Contributed by Ken Roe.

The location of the
cinema according to
Google Street View.

If anybody has a photo
of the cinema itself, I
would love to feature it
on mywarrington.

Get in touch by email
if you can help.

Odeon, Town Centre, Warrington (15)       cinemas_15_odeon__buttermarket_street_looking_glass_2010.JPG (133930 bytes)

41-43 Buttermarket Street, Warrington, W1A 2LY.

Opened 11 Jan 1937. Closed 27 Aug 1994 and demolished.

3 screens. 1,635 seats.

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An original Odeon built for Oscar Deutsch’s chain, Odeon Theatres Ltd. The Odeon opened on 11 January 1937 with George Arlis in "East Meets West". Seating was provided for 1,059 in the stalls and 576 in the circle. The building was designed in the art deco style by John Gomersall. 

It was closed in early-1968 when it was damaged by a fire. Repairs were made and it reopened in May 1968. The Odeon was tripled with 576 seats in the former circle and 291 and 196 in the two screens formed out of the rear stalls.

It re-opened on 14 September 1980 with "Empire Stikes Back", "Damien I & II" and "The Final Countdown".

Closed on 27 August 1994, the Odeon was demolished and a Yates's Wine Lodge was built on the site.

Yates’s Wine Lodge was refurbished in February 2010 by JD Wetherspoon and renamed The Looking Glass.

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy.  Many thanks to Peter Spilsbury for use of his photo.

It is commonly reported
that ODEON
stood for
Oscar Deutsch
Entertains Our Nation. 

But according
to thefreedictionary.com
an Odeon was 'a kind of
theatre in ancient Greece,
smaller than the dramatic
theatre and roofed over, in
which poets and musicians submitted their works to 
the approval of the public, and contended for prizes; - hence, in modern usage,
the name of a hall for musical or dramatic performances.
'

 

I leave it up to you
the reader to make
your own mind up.

Ritz/ABC (16)

Barbauld Street, Warrington, WA1 1HN.

Opened Aug 1937. Closed 23 October 1982. Building destroyed by fire on 14 April 2015 and demolished..

2 screens. 1,928 seats.

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Located on Barbauld Street near Bridge Foot, the Ritz Cinema was built by the Union Cinemas chain and officially opened on 23 August 1937 by the mayor, John Turner Cooper. The first films shown featured Robert Armstrong in "Without Orders" and Chester Morris in "I Promise to Pay". Admission prices were threepence for children and sixpence for adults. On stage was Macari and His Dutch Accordian Serenaders. Also entertaining was Alex Taylor who played the Compton 3Manual/6Rank organ. This organ had a Melotone attached and its illuminated console was on a lift. The Ritz Cinema also had a cafe for the convenience of its patrons.

Celebrity visitors include world-famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy in 1952. They did not perform at the venue, but visited to promote shows in Southport and Liverpool.

The Ritz was taken over, together with all Union Cinemas, by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in October 1937. It was re-named the ABC in 1958.

The ABC was closed on 19 August 1972 for alterations. The former stalls area downstairs was converted into a bingo club and a 474 seat cinema was created in the former balcony, which opened on 7 December 1972. In 1980 a second, smaller screen, with video projection and seating for 90 patrons, was opened in the former cafe area.

The cinemas closed on 23 October 1982, followed soon after by the bingo club closing.

The former bingo club became a nightclub named Mr Smith's. As Mr Smith's, Pete Waterman and Michaela Strachen presented the Granada TV music and dance show, The Hitman and Her, from there in the 1980s.

In June 2004, the local authority requested that due to the redevelopment of the riverfront, the Ritz Cinema should be considered for listing as an historic building. However nothing seems to have come out of this.

In the time between Mr Smith's and the opening as Synergy in March 2008, it was opened for one night a week, usually for school discos. It became Halo in November 2009, but closed in 2010.

A group called Theatre 4 Warrington had been campaigning for it to be converted into a theatre. There were further discussions in Warrington Borough Council to create a riverside leisure area alongside the Mersey close to the building. There was no direct connection between the two schemes.

On 5 Jun 2011, the building was sold for £1 million to Salford Quays-based company LPC Living Ltd. The Warrington Guardian reported that the council had put in a bid at auction in London of £500,000, which was the ‘guide price’, in order to safeguard the building for a proposed canal-side development – possible conversion to a theatre? It re-opened as Mr Smith's on 1 October 2011, but closed sometime later.

In July 2014, plans were submitted to Warrington Borough Council by owners LPC Living Ltd to demolish the building. The borough council says it cannot oppose demolition because the building is not listed or protected by law. The council had until 11 August 2014 to approve how work to knock down the building should be carried out. This was decided on 31 July 2014.

One objection to the demolition in the planning application notes is as follows: 

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I am appalled to hear of plans to demolish the former cinema at Bridge Foot. This is an architectural gem which should be preserved as Stockport has done with the Plaza. Please place a preservation order on this building. Tina Russell-Cruise.

Contributed by Ken Roe. Additional information by Gordon Gandy.

See information on the Save Mr Smith's Facebook campaign further down the page. Or click here to read it now.

AMC/UCI/Odeon Westbrook (17)

100 Westbrook Centre, Westbrook Crescent, Cromwell Avenue, Warrington, WA5 8UD.

Opened Mar 1988 and still showing movies.

10 screens. 2,080 seats.

The 10-screen AMC opened on 25 March 1988. In December 1988, it was taken over by UCI and re-branded. In October 2004, UCI were taken over by Terra Firma, who operated the Odeon Theatres chain and it was re-branded as the Odeon.

Seating capacities in the screens range from 278 down to 189, with a capacity of 2,080 seats.

Contributed by Ken Roe.

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Save The Ritz/Mr Smith's Art Deco Building

Soon after the Warrington Guardian reported on the proposals for the demolition of the building, the Save Mr Smith's group was set up on Facebook by Diane Kerfoot to negotiate with the owners on how the building could be saved for the community. At a meeting on 31 July 2014, Diane was told that it will not be demolished on 11 August so there is still hope. Some have suggested The Pete Postlethwaite Theatre, in recognition of the late international actor, who was born in Orford. Others have suggested a cinema once again or another nightclub.

It is believed it is only one of two Art Deco buildings still standing in the town. The other one is the Masonic Hall on Winmarleigh street in the town centre. The Odeon cinema on Buttermarket Street was also in the art deco style, but still demolished. Interest from the business world did not bring any offers to buy the building to run it as a commercial venture. The feedback was that the inside was just too large for one company. Also, the borough council does not have money spare to purchase the building. However, I was told that the building was offered to the council in 2004 for a very cheap price. I don't know if that is true, but if it was they missed out on a great opportunity to save it for the community. The Save The Ritz/ Mr Smith's Art Deco Building group has agreed that it is not appropriate for it to become just a theatre or just a cinema or even just another nightclub.

When I was a member of the Save The Ritz/Mr Smith's Art Deco Building group, my suggestion at our first meeting was to secure the building as a non-profit-making venture whereby different community groups and charities could make use of the building. The inside could be sectioned off into entertainment areas, workshops, offices, play areas and conference rooms, etc.

I even offer the suggestion as a radio presenter on Radio Warrington to move our studios into the building when the station begins broadcasting on the AM (medium wave) band later in 2014. The site Radio Warrington has been offered is only temporary due to redevelopment of the town centre in the near future. A permanent base for us in the former cinema/nightclub building would be another good use of the building. Radio Warrington is run by volunteers who are passionate about music and the community. We are proud to be at the heart of your community. Listen in live now on the internet or download the Tune In app on your mobile phone.

The former cinema/nightclub building could also incorporate a small theatre stage and cinema area for groups like the Warrington Cine and Video Society to showcase their work in the town centre. They have been making films since 1936, a year before the original Ritz cinema opened. The venue could also be used a training ground for budding artists/entertainers/musicians of the future to compliment the work done by the Pyramid Parr Hall on Palmyra Square.

Of course, it would take a lot of investment to make the dream come true, but there is the National Lottery good causes fund, which was set up in 1994 by former prime minister John Major to raise funds for good causes across the country. What better use of an iconic art deco building could there be than to hand it over the community as a lasting legacy for the town? However, having read the planning application, it seems the owners are only in favour of a commercial venture rather than a charitable trust or similar.

The alternative is to demolish it sometime after 11 August 2014 to replace it with - what? A car park? Offices? Houses? Is it a good cause or a lost cause? if you support the idea of saving the 1937 building, see the Save The Ritz/ Mr Smith's Art Deco Building Facebook page and get involved.

I congratulate Dianne Kerfoot on her hard work so far to put pressure on the owners and the local authority to make good use of the site. Also thanks to the Warrington Guardian, Pete Waterman and Chris Evans for supporting the cause. If our campaign fails, at least we can say we had a go.

Remember, if the building is demolished it won't be coming back and the only places to see it will be in photographs in books or on websites like mywarrington and Facebook. I wonder if I won Euromillions this week they would accept my offer to buy the building? I wouldn't need to run as a commercial venture. Just cover the running costs.

Meanwhile, another Facebook page, Mr Smith's Memories, features stories and photos from its days as a nightclub has been set up.

Contributed by Gordon Gandy.

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Click the images to go to the warringtonian.com website (above)
and the Save The Ritz/Mr Smith's Art Deco Building Facebook page (below).

Cinemas That Never Were

The Wire Works - 2005

New Time Square - 2005

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Image used with
permission
from Modus Iliad.

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I am grateful for
the help and
assistance
from Big Apple Warrington
and express my
appreciation for
permission to
reproduce
their artist's
impression
and descriptions,
which have been incorporated
into my own text.
In 2005 a planning application was submitted by Modus Iliad to redevelop vacant land on Winwick Street just north of Central Station.

The development would have been a mix of
residential apartments, retail facilities, gym,
beauty spa, restaurants and bars with a cinema, hotel and art gallery anchored to the project to create a mix of uses for town centre living.

1,200 parking spaces would have been available.

At a meeting of Warrington Borough Council on Friday 24 February 2006, planning permission was granted, subject to final approval by the Secretary of State.

In April 2006 the Secretary of State decided that there should be a public inquiry into the project. 

That inquiry began on 27 February 2007.
After planning permission had been approved, it was hoped that work could begin in late 2007, but the scheme was
later shelved.

Dallam Centre would have been the first priority as it was being moved to Orford Lane, with the bill being met by the developers.

The Dallam Centre itself was closed at the end of 2012 and demolished when the services it offered were moved to other
parts of the town.

In a decision which disappointed the Time Square retailers, 
the government refused to grant planning permission for
the scheme.

Reasons given were that it was not in a regeneration area and
that it was currently in use.

The £75million New Time Square was to be a mixed use
development including a 10 screen multiplex cinema, family
restaurants, retail units and residential apartments.

It would have included underground car parking and a new bridge link to the existing multi-storey car park on Academy Way.

The new site would complement the existing area and encourage shoppers to stay on in the evening.

Central to the development was a landscaped public square where people could meet and watch a big screen or enjoy the experience of alfresco dining at one of the many restaurants.

It was designed to complement the Market Hall and the
adjoining retailers, and the developers believe it was
important for the future of Warrington's south-east quarter,
and as a new town centre venue New Time Square would
be an asset to the whole of Warrington and beyond.

The partnership behind the scheme was made up of The Big Apple Warrington, Amstone, Dalgleish Retail Property Insight, Lowry Homes, Signet Planning and Leach Rhodes Walker Architects.

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The Future

Bridge Street Quarter

In October 2013 Warrington Borough Council announced its proposals for a £52 million plan to revitalise the traditional retail heart of Warrington town centre in Bridge Street.

The scheme will create a new family-friendly shopping, restaurant and leisure experience with a contemporary market hall at its heart. Other key components of the scheme will comprise a state-of-the-art multiplex cinema and a new civic centre.

The new market will be built on the site of the former Boots building on Bridge Street, thus preserving and making a street front entrance feature of the Grade II listed brick façade.

The 3.4 hectare (8.4 acre) development site extends from Bridge Street and across the existing Time Square development and includes the site of the existing market.

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The project will be delivered by Warrington Borough Council with development partner, Muse. Muse was chosen by Warrington Borough Council as partner on the scheme because of their established track record of delivery in mixed-use town centre regeneration projects across the UK.

The fly-through showing the proposed new market hall can be viewed here and here.

Information from Warrington Borough Council.

Find out more information by downloading the Bridge Street redevelopment public exhibition information [pdf]

mywarrington is not responsible for third party websites or for the accuracy of the information presented here.

Reader Memories

Peter Spilsbury adds some stories about the cinemas in the town.

The Pavilion - my dad used to tell me how they used to be admitted by giving in a jam jar.
The Regent - as a theatre it was known as the "Blood Tub" on account of the murder plays they presented there.
The Queens - the 4d seats were wooden with no backrest.
The Cameo - same priced seats were orange boxes with a plank across (only one row).

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From the age of seven we used to go to the Saturday morning matinee for 6d (2½p). Usually the Odeon. We only had a shilling (5p) pocket money and it was 6d in each cinema, so in the summer we would often walk to town from Penketh, see the Saturday film, walk home, have dinner, and then walk back to either the Palace or Cameo and walk home again. We did not seem to have much use for money during the week then. (Peter)

Do you remember
watching these
films in the cinema?

Photo © Peter Spilsbury

On THE PREMIER in Latchford, D. Williams writes:

My parents used to run this picture house for as long as I can remember. My dad was the projectionist and my mum was the cashier. I, of course, got in for free. It was a sad day when it shut down.

Regarding Lymm's DRILL HALL CINEMA, Kathy writes: 

The list of cinemas reminded me of when I was first married in 1965 and lived in Lymm for a couple of years. I got a job in the "potato works" ...... formerly the DRILL HALL CINEMA. The job was to take out the eyes on peeled potatoes which came along a conveyor belt with water constantly running over them. They were then packed up and sent off to chip shops, cafes etc. It was a horrible job which meant you were constantly standing in water, suffered chapped hands and always felt wet and cold. Don't need to tell you that I didn't stay there for very long. The potato works in the old Lymm cinema was affectionately called THE EYE HOSPITAL ..... get it?

Gordon adds: That last bit reminds me of a Pompous Speech Contest I helped to judge in 1986 when one contender called his speech 'Life Through The Eyes of a Potato!' He didn't win! Someone said my introduction to the event should have won. Perhaps I'll publish the transcript one day.

Ken Lowe (Jake) writes: About 1943 we used to walk from Latchford to the STAR KINEMA, where we paid two pence for the front rows and three pence for the "superior" rear rows. On Saturday morning we impatiently queued up outside the front. There was a shop attached on the right which used to take jam jars and give you a halfpenny for each. On one occasion boys were going further round the back and taking jam jars previously brought in and stacked there, then going in the front and claiming their halfpennies. In the cinema it was like a riot, and the bottles (and pee) would roll down the steep slope to the front of the hall. A frightening figure called Billy would parade up and down the rows, threatening the audience. He had short hair, a uniform from which his red, bull neck burst out and his constant threats to the unruly mob were preceded by "Be quiet you little so and so's." Later on, as we became more "sophisticated" we went to the Grand and on occasion laughed at the unfortunates who leaned back too far in the "double" seats and the whole row would collapse.

On THE PAVILION on Lovely Lane, Tony Hackett writes: I think this was a Trident electrical store at one time, in the 1970's at least. In 1973, I bought my first hi-fi from there, which was also my first major purchase after starting work. It was a Wharfedale Linton turntable/receiver/speakers set. I eventually sold it when I upgraded.

 

Do you have memories you would like to share? Get in touch by email.

 

CLICK ON EMAIL OR FEMAIL TO CONTACT ME

 

Other Warrington Cinema Facts

27 June 1902 - "Animated Pictures" at Parr Hall show Walking Day, etc (first of 12 nights).

9 Dec 1907 - "Animated Pictures" shown at Royal Theatre of Varieties, Scotland Road. Later the Futurist cinema and then the Regent cinema.

5 October 1908 "Living Pictures" were shown at the Parr Hall once a fortnight.

8 November 1938 - Birth of actor and film director Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones's Diary, Notting Hill, and Love Actually). He lived in Appleton, Warrington in the 1970s.

10 March 1961 - Funeral of entertainer and film star George Formby Jnr. He is buried in Warrington cemetery. 

Summer of 1990 - The only person watching Back to the Future at the Odeon on Buttermarket Street was me!

2 January 2011 - Death of Warrington-born film star Pete Postlethwaite.

Cinemas (table)

ORDER CINEMA

LOCATION

DATE OPENED SCREENS SEATS DATE CLOSED YEAR DEMOLISHED
1 PALACE CINEMA 15-17 FRIARS GATE 30 SEP 1907 1 1,100 1964 STILL IN USE
2 PARK PICTURE PALACE SANKEY STRET APR 1910 1 500 c1914 1970s
3 PICTUREDROME/CAMEO 83 SANKEY STREET JUN 1910 1 384 1956 STILL IN USE
4 GRAND CINEMA WILDERSPOOL CAUSEWAY 11 JUL 1910 1 600 1952 1952
5 PAVILION 6 LOVELY LANE SEP 1912 1 600 1957 STILL IN USE
6 CENTRAL 78 SANKEY STREET JUL 1913 1 500 1916 STILL IN USE
7 NEW PICTURE HOUSE WINMARLEIGH STREET 7 JUL 1913 ? ? ? ?
8 STAR KINEMA 76 CHURCH STREET 19 JAN 1914 1 627 1958 ?
9 QUEENS ORFORD LANE 1914 1 1,179 28 MAY 1960 1960
10 GEM PICTURE HOUSE WINMARLEIGH STREET 17 JAN 1916 1 40 1960s 1960s
11 FUTURIST/REGENT 3 SCOTLAND ROAD JAN 1921 1 543 1958 1980s
12 EMPIRE BUTTERMARKET STREET OCT 1921 1 ? 1961 1961
13 PREMIER 24 POWELL ST, LATCHFORD JAN 1922 1 460 1959 STILL EXISTS
14 DRILL HALL CINEMA 5 CHURCH ROAD, LYMM 30 OCT 1922 1 670 30 JUN 1962 STILL IN USE
15 ODEON WARRINGTON 41-43 BUTTERMARKET STREET 11 JAN 1937 3 1,635 27 AUG 1994 1994
16 RITZ/ABC BRIDGE FOOT 23 AUG 1937 2 1,928 23 OCT 1982 STILL EXISTS
17 AMC/UCI/ODEON WESTBROOK WESTBROOK MAR 1988 10 2,080 STILL OPEN STILL IN USE

My Favourite Camera Rigs

To finish, I thought I would tell you about some of my favourite film camera rigs.

The first is the crane, which is often used to see over a crowd of people. The major supplier of cranes in Hollywood throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s was the Chapman Company (later Chapman-Leonard of North Hollywood), supplanted by dozens of similar manufacturers around the world. The Steadicam is a camera stabilizer mount that mechanically isolates it from the operator's movement. allowing for a smooth shot, even when moving quickly over an uneven surface. It was invented by cameraman Garrett Brown in 1975.  Skycam, a computer-controlled, stabilized, cable-suspended camera system. The system is manoeuvred through three dimensions in the open space over a playing area of a stadium or arena by a computer-controlled cable-drive system camera rig. I first saw this system being used in narrow streets in a European country where it would have been difficult for vehicles to move. It also means you can follow a long sequence in one shot without cutting to other angles. Useful for car chase scenes. The later version of the Skycam rig was the Spidercam, which operates with four motorized winches positioned at each corner at the base of the covered area, each of which controls a Kevlar cable connected to a gyro-stabilized camera-carrier, or dolly.

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Crane shot on
Toppers in
Concert 2008.


Ken123 - Own work.
CC BY SA 3.0
Wikipedia Wikipedia

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Steadicam Operator
John Fry with Master
Steadicam & Arri
Alexa camera.

CC BY SA 3.0
Wikipedia Wikipedia.

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Skycam Husky Stadium.
Despeaux - Own work.
CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia Wikipedia

Image of a Skycam at work during
a Washington Huskies football game
at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash.

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Spidercam soccer.
da_belkin (Aleksandr Osipov) -
Flickr.com
CC BY-SA 2.0
Wikipedia Wikipedia

Warrington - A Town of Many Industries

mywarrington - created by Gordon I Gandy
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