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The original, 1913, cinema seated 600. One source reports that it was “reconstructed by George Longden & Son Ltd, sometime prior to 1935”. That accounts for the appearance of the building in the 1949 aerial photo and the 900 seat capacity in KYB 1935 (and subsequent).
After closure, the building was used as a Fine Fare supermarket.
The pair of windows to the right of the entrance have “Imperial” and “Cafe” on them, respectively.
The alley to the left of the entrance is the exit route from: front circle; rear circle; and pit cross aisle. Three exits converging to one opening at the street!
The projection room is very small. There is a 20 Sept 1930 newspaper report of the owners applying for, and receiving, licence to ‘extend’ the projection room by ‘three feet’. However, it looks not to have happened. The reason for wanting to extend was the ‘larger size of the new “talkie” apparatus’.
In the early weeks of 1930 a newspaper article looking back at 1929 refers to sound being installed at the Imperial.
There is a 14 Dec 1935 newspaper report of the owners being summoned as a result of a police spot-check one Saturday night discovering that patrons were being accommodated on chairs placed in the aisles and by the exits.
The colour photo shows the absence of decorative plater detail on the pilasters and ceiling cornice of the south wall; but it appears to be there in the old photo.
The newspaper report on the Imperial’s opening explained that the balcony to the left of the screen was for the ‘orchestra’ (piano, violin and cello)and the one to the right was used for display purposes (large photographs of film stars).
On the right of the old photo the exit door is open, revealing the entrance lobby for patrons of the front/cheap seats.
The truncated pyramid on top of the entrance block was removed at some time; as was the top part of the architectural embellishment with “1920”. The pair of ground floor windows to the right of the entrance block later became a pair of exit doors to the foyer.
The gable with the lozenge was purely decorative. There was nothing inside to indicate its presence. Strangely, on the inside, there was detailed decorative plasterwork on the ceiling cornices and the pilasters on the north (i.e. far) wall of the auditorium, but none whatsoever on their counterparts inside the south wall when inspected prior to demolition.
Architect’s drawings (see another photo) show that the ashlar stone-faced main entrance was to have been capped with a truncated pyramid, supporting railings and a flag pole. It wasn’t constructed. The drawings also show that there was another entrance door on Shale Street at the screen end of the building. There was a small lobby with a small pay box (for patrons of the front/cheap seats).
The two doors under “Imperial Cinema” open into the “crush hall”; the blue door to their right is an emergency exit from the foyer across the back of the stalls.
The three windows above “Imperial Cinema” are into the manager’s office.
Easily overlooked is the precarious stone block arch to the left of the entrance doors. People leaving via the front circle and the centre stalls emergency exits (both on the far side of the auditorium) and via the rear circle emergency exit (in the rear of the auditorium) would emerge through that arch.
The projection room was a narrow box construction protruding half a dozen rows into the centre of the rear stalls. It looks to have been rather cramped. It was accessed from the foyer across the back of the stalls. A door from the foyer opened into an ante-room, from whence another door opened into the ‘box’. How and where it and the projectors were ventilated isn’t shown in plans. Ducts to the north wall over the heads of the rear stalls, via the circle void, look the only option, but there are no tell-tale signs on that wall in any photo.
Plans show the “magistrates” required “spare ground for queuing purposes” against the side of the building. The same drawings show a canopy on the side of the building to shelter those queuing. Perhaps the run of black marks on the wall indicates where a canopy was anchored.
The double doors at the far end of the building opened onto a small, roughly rectangular space. Entering, one would see a paybox in the far corner on the right, to its left a door in the far wall into the women’s toilet and in the wall on the left doors into the auditorium.
The blue doors on the left of the photo were an exit from the foyer running across the building behind the stalls. On one side there were two pairs of entrance doors at the heads of the aisles in the stalls and, between them, a door to the projection room ante chamber; on the other side were women’s and men’s toilets and the entrance from the crush hall.
The partially blanked window above the blue doors is on to the women’s toilets in a corner of the rear of the circle.
The gabled feature was purely decorative. There was nothing inside the auditorium to indicate its presence.
The ashlar stone was a decorative veneer on a red brick construction. I wonder what became of the two stones bearing “Imperial” and “Cinema” respectively. It would be nice to have had them included somewhere in the replacement apartment development, Imperial Court.
The cantilevered lean to was the men’s toilets at the rear of the circle. The square aperture above the lean to was the air extractor outlet which connected to two duct lines running above the auditorium and connected to architecturally decorated circular grills in the ceiling.
The door, to the right atop the metal stairs, was an emergency exit from the rear circle. Just visible on the left are the metal emergency exit stairs from the front of the circle.
On the left side of the building, ground level drops steeply and in two directions. Even the front stalls exit on that side required steps.
The window in the corner at the rear of the entrance block was on the stairs to the circle. The other windows, behind the branch of the tree, were onto the manager’s office.
Having revisited the 28DaysLater photos, I’m not so sure that projection was from the rear of the lower circle. The sight lines were very tight from there, with the soffit of the upper circle being very low at the front. Visibility was unimpeded for seated patrons, but I doubt there was head room for a projection beam to clear the heads of people standing up. Perhaps someone with direct knowledge could clarify this aspect.
The original proprietors, Gannow Pictures Ltd, derived their trading name from the locality being known as Gannow Top. The “Gannow Tunnel” for the Leeds-Liverpool canal passes almost immediately below the site.
The edited second paragraph reads oddly . . “that evening”!
The flat-roofed extension on the left was probably constructed when the building was adapted to be a cabaret club in the mid-1960s. It is not on the aerial view of 1949. Nor was the addition on the left of the roof over the foyer/projection-room block; though Street Views now (2014) show it to have gone, as has the vertical fin/name display.
The Carlton was at the corner of Eastern Avenue and Errinton Road. The telegraph pole is still there (2014)!
Apparently, the concrete construction afforded poor thermal insulation, and the Carlton was nicknamed The Icebox.
The Kinematograph Year Books add a little to the above. The proscenium was 35ft or 40ft wide (both are quoted) and 15ft deep. There were two dressing rooms. The original owners were Forum Cinema (Sheffield) Ltd who booked the films at the hall. However KYB 1942 adds “Variety through Percy Hall’s Agency, Oxford Road, Manchester”. That didn’t appear in KYB 1947 or thereafter. In the Essoldo years, films were booked in London.
Often in KYB listings the seating capacity of a cinema changes, but it stayed consistently at 1814 for the Forum (certainly to KYB 1954).
The photo also confirms that the stub of road with a turning circle in 1948 was a through road years earlier. I suspect that was Catcliffe Road, probably the original address.
Use the Street View, above, to continue along Greenland Road (follow the blue car: in the 2014 version of SV) and turn to view the end wall of Aries Lighting. There’s a bricked-up exit door on your right and brick repair/infill on your left (formerly another exit?).
Look up and at the apex of the gable there’s a sign announcing “½ mile to Balfour Carpets” the other former cinema in the Darnall area of Sheffield.
“In Memory of Sheffield’s Cinemas” places the Darnall Cinema on Catcliffe Road which, on this 1950s map, is off to the west. It could be that, prior to possible realignment, Catcliffe Road continued east across the front of the Darnall Cinema where a stub of road and a turning area are indicated.
Ian – one would never have guessed that such a richly detailed ceiling could be found inside an externally-looking drab, small, back-street cinema. Even more amazing is that it survived all those years when it was a laundry and dry-cleaners. Worthy of listing, I reckon.
One admires the cinema and tends to forget how dreadful it must have been for the occupants in the houses left standing to the left of the building when it was erected and their sunlight was blocked. It wouldn’t have been much better for those in the houses on the right; plus there must have been noisy people exiting through the side crush doors at the end of the evening’s show.
In the lower left is Staniforth Road’s junction with Attercliffe Road. Those (of a certain age) familiar with retail architecture will appreciate why locals called it Burton’s Corner.
The name of the stretch of road down the side of the cinema has changed at some time: from Balfour Road to Shirland Lane. The lane originally joined the road in a T-junction at the rear of the cinema. Balfour Road is now blocked at that point and Shirland has a sharp bend and runs down to Staniforth Road. The change must have been in recent decades.
Down the side of the cinema, Shirland Lane (formerly Balfour Road), there is an impressive mini-façade, at the end of the auditorium side wall, with a blanked-off rounded arch entrance. Presumably this was a separate entrance for patrons of cheaper seats nearer the screen.
Peering closely, the exit alley-way appears to have a roof, supported lean-to fashion by the auditorium wall*. I wonder if patrons for the cheap, front, seats paid and entered at the screen end of the building.
(* It could just be things propped up against the wall)
The building was definitely not demolished in 1948, as commonly reported. There are aerial photos taken in September 1951 which show the complete building standing. There are two large loading-bay-type doors in the auditorium wall along Rutland Street and the pavement looks to have been modified/ramped to permit vehicular access. The roof over the centre/front of the auditorium looks original; that over the rear/balcony looks a cheap replacement. If that was because of bomb-damage, the lighthouse/tower feature on the roof at the front/corner escaped any damage. Due to the cost and materials involved, it wouldn’t have been restored when the building was repaired.
Even allowing for the confusion of war and the possible inertia in KYB updating its listings, for the Rutland to be listed in KYB 1947, two years after the end of the war, seems to contradict the widespread belief that it ceased operating in the early 1940’s.
The open space diagonally across the road from the Pavilion is now (2014) thick with trees. The building opposite the cinema has gone, as has the next building which abuts the bank “B”.