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The story about the owner being killed by a lion in Africa was told to me by my mother, who was born and raised in Midleton, so it is probably true. I inspected this building when it was an auction house in the early 1960s. The projection ports, high on the back wall were still in place. Like the Ormond cinema, it had high windows that were covered by shutters on the auditorium side walls. Perhaps this saved the cost of day-time electricity for cleaning?
My mother told me that they had improvised sound effects behind the screen operated by a local person, or two. She said that they usully played the tune “ A Whister and His Dog” during the intevals.
This theatre did run pantomimes. It had two proscenium arches, the original one and a later plaster one inserted, further forward, to take the screen curtains when a larger screen was installed for 70mm road shows. This was later taken out of use so that the stage could be used again for pantomimes.This could be seen after bingo took over.
It had a Compton organ installation under the stage, that was removed before bingo started.
The same staff used to operate the projectors for both this and the Odeon. The bingo staff could relieve those at the Odeon at times before Rank sold-off the bingo halls.
This cinema boasted of its original art deco furniture in its circle lounge into the 1970s. The proscenium arch looked as though it had been altered as the plaster did not match, as though it had been reduced in height to accommodate Cinemascope. It had double doors in veneered dark wood with window openings with the squared-off Odeon ‘O’ in each door. It had a good feel to it as a cinema and it is sad that it closed, probably when the lease on the land was up.
The ballroom in the former Restaurant was called the “Arnold Rudge Rendezvous for Dancing” which sounded like something invented by comedy script writers. In the 1970s it lacked much of its original grandeur. The organ had gone. The side walls looked as though much of the decorative detailing had been removed for economy or modernity. The last stage show was probably the musical, “Hello Dolly!” performed by a local amateur operatic society in 1971. The theatre had a full fly tower with the words Gaumont Place written on the back wall which survived into its Odeon days.
This used to be my local cinema when my parents lived in Hendon. I was amazed at the sound of the ‘traps’ (Timpani) coming from an organ, as I was used to the ‘straight’ organ in the local church. The main house tabs were a deep plum red with a gold design of rectangles appliqued on. Latterly the screen curtains were not used and I could never decide whether this was ‘modernity’ or if the tab motor had burnt-out. I was aware of the partial fly tower over the stage and was saddened that only one play ‘The Amorous Prawn’ ever played there live. I went to see “Oklahoma!” on screen there. It was always a dark auditorium and when the house lights came up, I was the only person sitting in the circle…
This was the last cinema built in South Shields before WWII.
Unlike most UK cinemas it had a box-office that opened directly onto the pavement between the main entrance doors. It also had an unusual diamond-shaped auditorium. It was regularly used by the local operatic society as a theatre until the bingo management made alterations that made further theatrical use impossible. It used to have split weeks with two different programmes each week. The house lights were not on a dimmer. There were two sets of neon tubes in the ceiling, one red and one white. When the performance was due to start the white lights went out followed by the red ones. The red ones came on at the end of the performance followed by the white ones. It looked very slick.
It was a very pleasant venue in which to watch a film programme.
This cinema was cosy and harked back to the days of silent cinema as it had side boxes which were seldom, if ever occupied. Despite its small screen it was a very pleasant venue in which to see the movies. Efforts to ‘list it’ were too late to save it. It made a positive contribution to the street-scape that the later supermarket failed to achieve.
I remember this cinema from when I was small and we lived around the corner. What I loved were the coloured lights in the ceiling. As the building used to be an ice rink these might well have been the compartment battens originally designed to flood the ice with changeable colours. It may have been an economy to keep these and just illuminate all of them as house lights. The cinema was reputed to have the longest ‘throw’ from the projection room to the screen of any cinema in the UK. I was very sad when I heard that it was closing.
There were two cinemas in Midleton. The ‘Southern Star’ was a silent cinema. It closed when the owner was killed by a lion in Africa, according to local gossip. (This is Ireland don’t forget!) It was still standing the last time I visited. It had become an auction room and it was at the Cork end of the Main Street. I remember that the projection portholes were still in evidence years after closure. It later was converted to a furniture store and evidence of its cinematic former self was lost.
The Ormond was according to local gossip owned by Conny Carey. It was built for “the Talkies”. It had a single tier with a shallow rake. The cinema was on a side street and the box office was situated on the pavement between the entrance doors. It was latterly operated by the |Green family. They partitioned-off the end with the splay walls and divided the auditorium into two narrow mini cinemas. The exterior from the back the cinema looked like a Dutch barn with a curved roof of corrugated concrete panels.
The Chinese has already been altered. If you look at old photographs you will see that the proscenium arch was originally built narrower and there were decorative splay walls either side. These have vanished to make way for a bigger screen. Did anyone complain when this happened?
I had the building “listed” while I was living is Dewsbury and won a Public Enquirey to have it preserved.