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Visiting the Gaumont (Walsall pron. Gormunt) was a rare treat. The photos confirm it looked like a west end theatre. The foyer was like the sitting room of a stately home and on the first floor was a celebrated restaurant. The interior decor was majestic. I only began using it when I started going out with girls as the ticket prices were so dear. It was the place to see the local premiers of big films like Lawrence of Arabia. I took one girlfriend to see The Sound of Music there, swankily getting the tickets in advance and presenting them to the uniformed staff. Regrettably it was refurbished with a sterile, modern look, but didn’t last long before being destroyed in a fire. I recall one of the last visits there when we sat up in the circle and were disturbed my a mouse munching on a crisp packet under my seat!
The Imperial was the second-string ABC cinema in Walsall. My recollection is that the films shown had already done the rounds, or were “cheapo” Italian epics with titles like Arm of Fire and Ursus, usually starring Gordon Scott or Steve Reeves. However, I did see Charge at Feather River at the Imperial which was a 3D western. Always remember it was 9d(4.5p) to get in and 6d(2.5p) for the card-framed red-and-green glasses. As attendances dropped the Imperial resorted to showing late-night horror marathons or"adult" art films like Mondo Kane. Not forgetting the naturist films or spurious “documentaries” like London by Night!
Well recall the Empire as as huge, impressive theatre even though it was part of the smaller Clifton chain and located in a side street. As kids we usually did the rounds of Walsall’s seven cinemas, particularly durng rainy schhol holidays. Strangely, some of the films shown e.g. Ivanhoe and Bridge on the River Kwai, were already several years old when we saw them. My son-in-law’s father was projectionist there up to closure. He told me about the arrangement with a local music shop to supply the records for the interval music.
As the Savoy this was the first cinema I recall attending for the ABC Minors Club on Saturday mornings during the mid-fifties. Although I never managed to master the song, even with the little ball bouncing over the words! If the Gaumont/Odeon was the grand aristocratic lady, the Savoy was the art-deco flapper and a beautiful example too. Though remodelled as a multi, some of the original 1930s decorative detail was revealed during demolition I remember seeing Ben-Hur and Zulu here
This was my Saturday morning venue for several years. Rather run down in comparison with the town centre cinemas, it was ideally located in the suburb of Leamore. I recall seeing Rocket XM on one program. As a family we also went to a live theatre show in about 1959, featuring Jimmy Clitheroe