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The Savoy is not listed in Kinematograph Year Book 1914. Under Cleckheaton there are just two entries: the Picture Palace around the corner in Albion Street; and the Temperance Hall a few hundred yards away. ‘West Yorkshire Cinemas & Theatres’ by Peter Tuffrey gives 1923 as the opening year.
Until Star acquired it, ownership was with Goodalls Pictures Ltd (later Goodalls Pictures (1931) Ltd) who gave the business address as Albion Street and the same phone number as the Picture Palace. Seating was initially given as 1200; but listings in the Star days gave 1214.
Also in ‘West Yorkshire Cinemas & Theatres’ by Peter Tuffrey there is a photo taken (probably) in the mid 1920s of the Picture Palace in Albion Street. To the right of the Palace there is a tall, narrow, new building with a Tudor-bethan finish to the upper façade. It has three double-door entrances above which is ‘Savoy’; but there is no display matter whatsoever, just tasteful shrubs by the doors. However, another photo shows the principal entrance to the Savoy was on Bradford Road. Were the rooms on the upper two floors in Albion Street, perhaps, the offices of Goodalls Pictures?
The original sound system was BTH (British Thompson Houston). Some time around 1941 this was replaced with WE (Western Electric).
Up to, and including, KYB 1950 the listing for the Savoy had “café attached”. Was that above the entrance/exit doors in Albion Street?
In ‘West Yorkshire Cinemas & Theatres’ by Peter Tuffrey there is a photo taken many years after the above (probably mid 1920s) of exactly the same stretch of Albion Street. The timbered(?) building to the right has been replaced with a tall, narrow, new building with a Tudor-bethan finish to the upper façade. It has three double-door entrances above which is ‘Savoy’; but there is no display matter whatsoever, just tasteful shrubs by the doors. However, another photo shows the principal entrance to the Savoy was on Bradford Road.
From its opening to being acquired by the Star circuit (around 1953) the ownership was with Goodalls Pictures Ltd then Goodalls Pictures (1931) Ltd. Star shortened the name to Palace.
AWH sound was a British system named after Arthur William Harris (slogan ‘Always Worth Hearing’). Around 1947 it was replaced with an RCA system.
Kinematograph Year Book 1935 to 1954 gave the capacity as 800; this fell to 697 in KYB 1957, presumably because of the CinemaScope installation. KYB always lagged changes.
In the Kinematograph Year Book 1914 the owners are exotically titled the “Franco-British Animated Picture Co”.
Given that it closed in 1932, it managed to be listed in KYB 1935, 1940 and 1945 (but not after that) and as having 1550 seats and Western Electric sound!
The closing film, A Honeymoon Adventure, was made by Associated Talking Picture and released in September 1931. The SPH’s top-of-the-range Western Electric sound installation could hardly have had time to pay for itself by closure in August 1932; probably two years at the most. G J Mellor in ‘The Cinemas of Bradford’ has “Spotlamps and stage fittings transferred to the Glenroyal”. Perhaps that went for the WE equipment too. The SPH closed on Wednesday 31 August; the Glenroyal opened on Monday 5 September.
The original projection room was at the rear of the stalls.
In the quad arrangement, the two ‘studios’ immediately in front of the projection suite were each served by two mirrors giving a downward-then-forward firing ‘periscope’ arrangement. The pair beyond them were served by an upward-then-forward firing ‘periscope’ which took the beams above the ceilings of the nearer pair and through glazed openings into the distant pair. As ever, with such mirror arrangements: the light scatter ruined the image contrast; the imperfect geometry alignment of mirrors distorted the images; and the focus was poor and got worse over time as contaminating films of dust and grease were deposited on the mirrors. The screens were solid surfaces with the sounds coming from loudspeaker boxes (of no great quality): one screwed on the wall below each screen. The access corridors were not particularly wide and were rather claustrophobic.
The original licence was granted on 17 November 1909. The applicants were Burnley United Temperance Society (also known as the Burnley Blue Ribbon Union) who described the building as being on part of the site of the former foundry of Messrs Butterworth and Dickinson. It was constructed to the designs of architects Messrs G and S Keighley of Nicholas Street and included a fire-proof “cinematograph chamber . . cut-off from the hall itself” which contained “two cinematographs, electric motors, switches, telephones, etc”. Building commenced in June and completed in November.
The gallery was described as running along three sides of the hall, with the “cinematograph chamber” at the rear of the central portion.
It is clear the Temperance Society intended it to be a picture theatre; and they requested permission in the licence for matinees on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
What most people know about the film Samson & Delilah is Groucho Marx’s comment about Victor Mature’s muscular development.
After the premiere, the director Cecil B. DeMille asked Groucho what he thought of the film. Groucho replied, “Well, there’s just one problem, C.B. No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s tits are bigger than the leading lady’s.”
DeMille was not amused, but Victor Mature apparently was.
This does not show the Leeds Road frontage as built.
A newspaper report on the up-coming re-opening said that the Palace was back in the ownership of Harry Buxton. He gave the newspaper a statement from a resort in the South of France where he was convalescing from an illness. Buxton’s General Manager was a Geoffrey B Henshaw who was 6ft 5in tall, according to the article!
As the screen was the last item to be put in place, it was claimed that technical work would be going on in the Palace on Christmas Day.
I’m wondering if the cheap seats for viewing a reversed picture anecdote in “Life In Victorian Preston” by D.J. Hindle is an erroneous report of the use of rear projection.
A February 1921 magistrates' survey of Burnley cinemas mentions no seats behind the screen. “This building has a ground flood (sic), with a gallery on one side, and is principally a wooden structure, having been formerly a skating rink and converted into a cinema hall in 1912. There are four exits. Seating accommodation is 1,350 ground floor, 150 gallery, total 1,500.”
They go on to comment about the use of rear projection and the consequent lack of projection beam light to lift the darkness in the hall. “This being so, the other ordinary light in use during an exhibition should be carefully attended to, so that the building is sufficiently light to be able to see what is taking place in all parts to which the public are admitted. Attention is particularly called to this point.”
Other recommendations were to install front seats with backs and to re-arrange them so that the rows were not less than 2ft 2inch apart.
A February 1921 magistrates' survey of Burnley cinemas described the Andrews in the Church Institute as: ground floor 843; balcony 108; gallery 140 (total 1091). “It is understood that this hall at times gets very hot during a performance, which is probably owing to the fan not always being used. This should be attended to regularly.”
At the time of the photo, the Empire was still a live theatre. Films came on 19 May 1930.
The Victoria was a live theatre to the end. It was a 2,000 seater and was demolished in 1955. Woolworth’s in the building to the left of it in the photo extended their old building, with architectural sensitivity, and opened it in November 1958.
During WW2 the Victoria was the (evacuated) base for the Old Vic and Sadlers Wells companies from London, from which they toured. Burnley even hosted Lawrence Olivier and Vivienne Leigh for a while.
The first show was Monday 19 May 1930. On Wednesday 21 May there was a letter in the paper from someone pointing out that the prices has been increased since the Empire’s owners had first advertised the opening of the cinema. By Saturday 24 May, the newspaper had several letters on that theme; some pointing out that Burnley’s prices were higher than in other towns.
The theatre re-opened as the New Empire cinema on Monday 19 May 1930 with “Happy Days”.
In “Life In Victorian Preston” by David John Hindle he writes: “The first moving pictures in Burnley were shown in 1908 at the Andrews' Picture House”.
The Alhambra site had become a car wash, not a filling station.
THE EMPRESS OPENED IN 1912: At a licensing magistrates' hearing on Wednesday 11 December 1912 the magistrates considered Joseph Bradley’s application for a “cinematograph licence for the premises, Empress Picture House, in Sandy Gate”. Bradley already had a music licence.
“The cinematograph licence was granted until December 31st.”
THE ENLARGEMENT WAS 1919/20: The first licence application to enlarge the Empress was heard on Wednesday 14 June 1919. The architect for the work was Mr G Keighley. “It was intended to make the balcony circular, and the alterations would, amongst other things, provide two additional exits both from the gallery (note: ‘gallery’) and from the building”. Seating would increase by 150. The decision was postponed two weeks for the architect to submit full plans, not just the alterations. The works had been done by February 1920.
The pointer on the map is on the wrong (i.e. north east) part of what was Sandygate.
Today (2015), Sandygate has a T junction with Trafalgar Street. Previously, this was a cross roads with Sandygate continuing, south west, up the hill past Coal Clough Lane to the junction at the Angel Inn. Most of this stretch of Sandygate has gone; and what remains is now part of Burnham Gate.
Web sites of Burnley people reminiscing have mentions of the Empress being “near the Angel Inn”, “at the junction of Coal Clough Lane and Burnham Gate”, and next to the “Duckett Sanitaryware complex”. In the streetview (2014?), the low, red, industrial unit is on the sanitaryware complex site; the higher, grey industrial shed is more than likely on the site of the Empress.
The ‘sunday-school-like building’ was, in fact, a Wesleyan Chapel.
The Kinematograph Year Book for 1957 has the cinema trading as the Majestic, owned by Albert Bass. The sound system is Gaumont-British Duosonic and there is a CinemaScope screen of 26ft by 16ft in the 27ft wide proscenium.
The old building is referred to as a former “Church of England Mission Hall” in a newspaper report of the opening of the new building in February 1921. The architect of the latter was a “Mr A A Bell of Cannon Street, Burnley”; and its projectors were Kalee Indomitables.
At a licensing magistrates' hearing on Wednesday 11 December 1912 the Alhambra management made application for clause 38 of their music licence to be deleted. This prohibited singing entertainment which they had been providing between films; to the Chief Constable’s disapproval.
Oddly, the Burnley Gazette reported that the bench permitted the deletion until the next renewal at the end of March 1913; the Burnley News reported that the Alhambra’s request was rejected but the matter would be reviewed at licence renewal.
The Tivoli owners had expected to be ready to be given a licence at the licencing magistrates' hearing on 11 December 1912, but the cinema was incomplete (seats had not arrived) and the application was adjourned sine die.
The Tivoli was given the necessary licences from the magistrates on Wednesday 5 February 1913.
“Mr Mossop, in making the application, said that the premises were built, completed and ready for opening. The building was of brick and stone, with cement floors and slated roof, and was an absolutely up-to-date theatre in every possible convenience, well furnished and capable of holding 1050.”
The licence was given until the end of March 1913 when all cinematograph licences in Burnley would be up for renewal.
At the same hearing, the ubiquitous architect William Heap provided plans for an 820 seat cinema to be built in Parliament Street (no name given). The applicant was a Mr N Tomlinson ‘chemist and druggist’ of Gannow Lane. The Bench decided they had no powers to award a licence for premises at only the plan stage; and they expressed the opinion that there were sufficient halls in that area already.
It was Standard Cinema Properties Ltd of Birmingham who ran the cinema under the Regal name, starting around August 1930.
By October 1933, local paper adverts for the cinema had reverted to using the Pentridge name.
In the Kinematograph Year Book 1935 the owners are New Empire (Burnley) Ltd, based at the Empire cinema on St James' Street. It was reported in the local newspaper on 15 November 1933 that New Empire (Burnley) had acquired the Pentridge (by that name), along with 4 other cinemas from Mr J Bradley who was suffering ill-health. The company had also tried to acquire the Savoy, but the owners preferred to lease it to a Liverpool operator, Harry Buxton.
The building behind the stage block/tower IS the former Ruskin Hall.