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The operating room was at the rear of the stalls. To accommodate the extra equipment for talkies, the room was extended into the foyer.
Front pit patrons entered at a stage-end paybox/lobby in Red Lion Street.
The first Burnley cinema with (regular) talkie equipment was the Pentridge. They installed Electrocord which opened with Bebe Daniels in ‘Hot News’ on 20 May 1929. The Savoy ran a spoiler in the local paper, pointing out that they had tried a sound system about 18 months earlier but found it unsatisfactory so were therefore paying top-price for the WE system. So they were the second (regular) talkie cinema. The Imperial was the third (16 Sept) with BTP equipment.
The tagged-on front contrasts with the auditorium (an original mill building) behind it (see the thickness of the mill wall in that upper opening in the flank).
There is a blue board blocking a side exit, which is at the rear semi-cross-aisle of the stalls. ( The aisle didn’t ‘cross’ the back of the stalls because the projection room sat in the middle.)
I’m speculating: perhaps the original configuration was that the 1910 cinema was at the ground level with the (roller) skating rink on an upper floor. The skating business/fad passed so the cinema was knocked through into the upper floors to facilitate adding a balcony. Adding the extension on the front released extra space in the original building for auditorium use.
The reference to works done in 1912 and 1917 was taken from a Burnley Council document dated 2004. I now suspect this is incorrect.
What is definite is that the Pentridge reopened on Thursday 25 March 1920 having been extensively remodelled and enlarged (a balcony) and re-fronted to the designs of William Heap whose Imperial, a new build, had opened about 9 weeks earlier. The layout (balcony, projection room, orchestra gallery, etc) and style are very similar in both cinemas.
The Burnley News report of Saturday 27 March 1920 (see other photos) gave the new capacity as 384 in the ‘balcony’ and 833 in the ‘pit’: total 1217. A number of rear ‘pit’ seats had poor sight-lines because of balcony-support columns.
The Pentridge cinema building became the EMBASSY CLUB in the early 1960s with gaming tables (roulette, blackjack, etc) and live entertainment (‘blue'comedians and strippers). It was operated by a Norman Smith who also ran the Black Knight Club at Waterfoot in Rossendale.
Many cinemas went down the gaming/adult-entertainment route in the early 1960s, becoming Embassies and Fiestas, but their businesses were adversely affected by the Gaming Act 1968 which ended the more laissez-faire gambling regime.
Check the spelling of monster!
Sound came on Monday 16 September 1929 with ‘The Perfect Alibi’. The sound system was BTP. The Imperial’s advertising would have left the casual reader believing that it was a Western Electric system! The system was upgraded (by BTP) and debuted on 25 January 1937. The Pentridge was first in Burnley (20 May 1929), the Savoy second (26 August 1929) and the Imperial third (16 September 1929). The Savoy had trialled an unsuccessful system nearly two years previously.
‘Wide Screen’ came on Monday 21 November 1955 with John Wayne in “The High and The Mighty”.
Closure came on Saturday 29 October 1960 with Carry On Constable.
Demolition was in August 2006; after which Imperial Court Apartments were built.
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.
Redruth Street was the Imperial’s advertised address as the cinema entrance faced straight down Redruth Street and was visible from the busy Padiham Road at the other end.
The canopy was removed many years before demolition. The historic buildings surveyor, called in whilst initial preparations for demolition were in hand, observed the canopy anchor points and reported them to be metal ties holding the circle structure to the Shale Street wall.
When erected, the cinema must have deprived the adjacent houses of much daylight.
The entrance block was obviously aligned to face straight down the length of Redruth Street to the busy Padiham Road, from where it was visible to passing trade. Hence, why the Imperial always advertised as being on Redruth Street and not Shale Street.
There was one show that day, at 7-15 pm:
Stephen Murray, Kay Walsh and William Fox in “The Magnet” (U)
“Also News and Full Supporting Prog.”
This is an early photo. The auditorium lighting is indirect using wall recesses, coves and domes. When I frequented the Gaumont, as it was in the 1950s/early 60s, a large chandelier hung from the centre of the large dome, with subsidiary ones in the the smaller domes. The cove-lights in the domes were gone. There were still the three coves of light bulbs (a colossal number in total) in the proscenium frames. The curtains/tabs were deep red with three horizontal bands of gold towards the bottom. We sat in the (cheap) front stalls. When the curtains parted a Niagara of cold air rolled down off the stage into the front stalls area.
During the demolition in May 2009 a local woman wanted to salvage the art deco tiles but the demolition contractors were not prepared to allow or assist in any way. The tiles were destroyed. I suspect the “Regent” in blue and white glass went the same way.
According to an elderly woman interviewed for the British Library Millennium Memory Bank sound archive, the Regent had a circle.
The site of the former Majestic is now (2014) that of the of the offices of the Marsden Building Society.
The demolition information is also incorrect, according to Mercia Cinema Society’s “Chronicles of Pendle’s Picture Palaces” which quotes an article in the local newspaper ‘The Nelson Leader’ of 30 June 1961.
Star Cinemas were to acquire local cinema chain Victory Theatres, but the Majestic was to be sold to the Marsden Building Society as the site for their new HQ (which it is; see Street View). The cinema closed on Saturday 8 July 1961 with Jerry Lewis in ‘Cinderfella’ and Bob Hope in ‘The Paleface’.
The newspaper dates are correct. This casts doubt on “Having changed ownership, it opened as the New Star Cinema on Monday 18 January 1932 with Western Electric(WE) sound” which is in the Overview. That information was taken from ‘Chronicles of Pendle Picture Palaces’ published by the Mercia Cinema Society. It has been rechecked: not only is the 18 Jan 1932 date out, but the opening talkie was reported to be ‘Dance Fool Dance’ with Joan Crawford. It was released in the US in February 1931. ‘The Big House’, a gaol film with Lewis Stone and Wallace Beery was released in the US in June 1930.
A possible explanation could be both are right: a cheap/poor sound installation in 1931; then an upgrade to Western Electric 1932. However both the newspaper reports and the Mercia book connect the sound installation to change of ownership. Puzzling.
Odd to see the local paper get the spelling wrong. A licence: a document; is the noun. To license: to give permission or to allow; is a verb!
Are these premised licensed? So, can I see the licence?
There was a curved pediment at the roof-line and a different treatment of the wall in the vicinity of the entrance. Those of us who knew the building only from its later (bingo) decades will have be struck by how anonymous the entrance looked. The pediment had gone and the wall rendered plain. Apart from a discreet ‘Regent’ on the canopy there was no visual signal of the entrance’s location.
The Queens had a discrete, classical façade with a semi-domed entrance canopy on four columns. It opened on Saturday 13 December 1913 with a 2000ft film called ‘Caste’.
The first ‘sound’ show was 14 July 1930: Mon to Wed ‘The Deserrt Song’; Thurs to Sat ‘The Singing Fool’.
The cinema closed for two weeks, from 9 June 1934 for redecorating, reseating and installing “the latest appliances”.
In July 1956, alterations to the projection room involved a one week closure. It reopened with a 1950 Audie Murphy film and a 1955 film with no-one of note; neither in CinemaScope.
The final show was Saturday 28 May 1960. Demolition came in 1969.
It opened as the NEW CINEMA on 23 August 1913; by January 1922 had been renamed CINEMA HOUSE, which closed for alterations 3 July 1926 and reopened on 2 August 1926 as the TIVOLI THEATRE. Management changed early in 1932 and the cinema closed for further alterations and to upgrade the sound from Cinephone to Western Electric. It reopened on 2 May 1932, which is probably when the name changed to CAPITOL. In 1950 NEW CAPITOL was a trading name. The last show was on 3 April 1955.
This was Nelson’s first purpose-built cinema, opening 29 August 1910. It was of corrugated iron and wood; and accommodated 500 on benches with stoves for heating. After management changes and periods dark, it finally closed on 13 April 1940, having been refused a licence renewal because of the dangerous state of the building for use as a cinema. It was demolished and a nursery/primary school erected on the site.
The Regent Picturedrome opened Monday 9 October 1922 with “Dangerous Lies” and “When A Girl Loves” with Charlie Chaplin.
It ceased being a cinema on Saturday 2 July 1960; showing a double X-certificate horror programme: “Frankenstein’s Daughter” and “The Brain From Planet Arous”. It became a bingo hall.
The box at the top of the building was the projection room. It has been removed; though other roof top additions have recently been made.
Mercia Cinema Society’s “Chronicles of Pendle’s Picture Palaces” gives the last show as 5 May 1957; showing Burt Lancaster in ‘Ten Tall Men’. The article has: “The Alhambra seated 600 at the time of closure. The bath was still there under the wooden floor. It … became a leather goods works.”
The original, 1913, cinema seated 600.
One source reports that it was “reconstructed by George Longden & Son Ltd, sometime prior to 1935”. That would account for the appearance of the building in the 1949 aerial photo and the 900 seat capacity given in KYB 1935 (and subsequent editions). The reconstructed cinema had a balcony.
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!