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A minor correction – the title of the last film to be shown was “Woman Tamer”, a 1935 film starring George Raft and Joan Bennett, which played in a double-bill with the Will Hay film “Oh Mr. Porter”.
The Prince’s was always a full-time cinema. As mentioned, it opened on 7 October 1929, the opening film being “Movietone Follies”. The weekly programmes for the rest of the month being “The Trial of Mary Dugan”, “The Singing Fool”, and “Broadway Melody”. When Gaumont acquired the Princes, it then took over the Gaumont release from their existing cinema, The Boro which then took alternative programmes. An oddity of programming in the thirties and forties was that the main feature would play twice in the evening and also once in the afternoon supported for the afternoon only by a revival of an older film. I have not come across this elsewhere – other northeast Gaumont cinemas played conventional double bills.
The stage facilities saw very occsional use in the fifties and sixties when the theatre was hired out to the local Amateur Operatic Society, which despite the name staged musicals.
I have looked at the programmes for this cinema over it’s last few months, and as far as I can see, does not seem to have shown any cinemascope pictures, so had probably not been so equipped. It closed on 17th November 1956.
Was this originally a Union Cinema? There is a book about Sunderland cinemas, “The Dream Palaces of Sunderland” which states that it was built for Union Cinemas, and yet it is illustrated with a photo obviously taken when it opened, as the film that is being advertised is the first film to be shown, “Swing Time”, and above the canopy can be clearly seen two ABC triangles. The author also expresses surprise that it was originally to be called the Savoy, indeed surprising if it was a Union cinema, as they standardised on the Ritz name, but not at all surprising if it was an ABC cinema.
The location given is incorrect. It was actually situated at the junction of Cauldwell Lane and Seatonville Road.
When it reopened in January 1972, it was with the Classic name, even though Classic did not take over the Essoldo circuit until April, and it was fitted with very comfortable armchair seats, which were staggered so as to give the best possible view of the screen. It was a very pleasant place to watch films. The first film to be shown was “Waterloo”. Programmes tended to be more upmarket than at the Classic, Whitley Bay about a mile away. I recall seeing “Death in Venice” here. When the second cinema was opened, the size of the main auditorium was slightly reduced, but the new cinema 2 was a lot less satisfactory being long and narrow, and also very tall, as it retained the original high ceiling.
My father lived in North Shields as a boy and he thought that the Albion was the best cinema in the town. Although the Princes was a later and larger cinema, he did not rate it as highly. The Albion was always an independent cinema, although for many years, it usually played the same program as the ABC New Coliseum, Whitley Bay, and after that closed, the ABC, South Shields. Get Carter (the original version with Michael Caine) was a huge success here, running for four weeks.
Following the demolition of the auditorium, a new customer service centre for North Tyneside Council, including a new library for the town, has been constructed on the site.
I think that the date for conversion by Essoldo to a cinema was 1957, not 1956. The Empire appears to have operated as a full-time cinema for much of the thirties, with occasional weeks of variety. Films ceased, and it reverted to full-time variety from 5th September 1938.
The introduction of bingo in May 1966 was part-time and it continued to show films on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays into the 70s. Unfortunately, I have been unable to look at newspaper beyond 1970, so I don’t know how long this continued for.
Perhaps I could give some details of the British release. After opening at the Dominion in London, these are some of the cinemas that went on to show it. 28 April 58: Manchester, Gaumont (111 weeks). 2 August: Brighton, ABC Astoria (23 weeks). 21 September: Glasgow, Gaumont (81 weeks). 22 September: Birmingham, West End (94 weeks); Leeds, Majestic (40 weeks); Newcastle upon Tyne, Queens (81 weeks). 25 December: Edinburgh, New Victoria (24 weeks). 26 December: Bristol, Odeon (19 weeks); Cardiff, Capitol (24 weeks); Liverpool, Odeon (25 weeks); Sheffield, Odeon (21 weeks). 15 June 59: Middlesbrough, Odeon (18 weeks). This is not a full list, just those I have come across. Most, if not all of these cinemas were equipped to show the film in Todd-AO.
I noticed when I visited Carlisle in the late sixties that the Palace was being operated by Star, although adverts in the local newspaper from that time give no indication that it was a Star cinema. It closed as the Palace on 25th April 1970, reopening as Studio 1 & 2 on 14th August 1970. Opening films were “Carry on up the Jungle” in Studio 1 and “Oliver” in Studio 2. It closed again on 8th January 1972 to be converted into four cinemas, reopening on 20th February 1972. It is interesting to note that the ABC closed the night before for modernisation. Opening Programmes were “Diamonds are Forever” in Studio 1, “Straw Dogs” in Studio 2, “Please Sir” in Studio 3 and “And Now for Something Completely Different” in Studio 4. “Diamonds are Forever” ran for 10 weeks overall – 6 weeks in Studio 1 then it transferred to Studio 4 for a further 4 weeks.
Thank you Ken Roe for posting this entry on the Waterloo. Today I visited Whitby library and as a result can add the following information. Star do not appear to have taken over the Waterloo untill June 1968. The previous operator closed it on 1st June 1968. Star then appear to have taken it over and reopened within a few days, the first advert for it as a Star cinema appears in the local newspaper the following Friday showing “Tobruk” as showing then. It contined to operate as the Waterloo until 22nd June when Star closed it for eleven days for modernisation re-opening it as the Ritz on Thursday 4th July. I have not yet found if it closed that winter, but in subsequent years, it opened during the summer only. I am uncertain of who operated the cinema before Star, but the 1964 Kine yearbook lists it as MBC Cinemas of Workington.
Some additional information on the Coliseum. I closed as a cinema on 22nd September 1962 to become a bingo club, but from 15th August 1963, it began to show films on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with bingo continuing on the other three night. Films again ceased to be shown on Tuesday 2nd July 1968, the last programme being The Sorcerers + Mini Weekend. It then became a full-time bingo club the next day. On the Thursday, Star re-opened the Ritz after being closed for alterations and modernisation. This cinema would appear to have been previously known as the Waterloo but I have no further information about it. Can anyone supply extra details about it?
As well as the main auditorium, there was also a smaller cinema upstairs which was originally, I believe a lecture theatre but when the Tyneside Film Theatre opened became the members theatre, but was subsequently licensed for public exhibition as cinema 2. With two cinema screens, they were able to show a wide range of films. Sometimes they would show seasons of a particular genre, e.g. gangster movies such as Little Ceasar and the original Scarface. On one occasion I saw the Buster Keaton silent classic, The General with piano accompaniment. When Elizabeth Welch came to be, interviewed, after the interview they showed Song of Freedom which she had made in 1936 playing opposite Paul Robeson. Cinema 2 was rather plain, but it was the films that were important here.
As the Tyneside Cinema in the 70s and 80s, as well as showing films, they would also invite personalities to be interviewed. I attended talks with such disparate figures as David Puttnam, Don Boyd, Elizabeth Welch and Barbara Windsor. The then film critic of the Guardian, Derek Malcolm also came to give a talk.
Doctor Zhivago was of course in Panavision not Cinemascope. One Wide screen film that was very poular here was Zulu, which was shown several times. The last time that I saw it at the New Coliseum, the opening scene following the titles, which features bare-breasted Zulu women performing a dance, was missing. Were there objections to this scene, or could someone have removed it for their personal collection? Curiously, despite this scene, and the violence in some other scenes, it was still given a U certificate.
This cinema had a stadium layout with the rear stalls over the entrance foyer. Although films took over from December 1931, it did still see occasional stage use after that. I recall as a child in the fifties seeing the ventriloquist Peter Brough and his dummy Archie Andrews (who then had a poular radio (!) show) here with a pathetically small audience. The Essoldo was the first Whitley Bay cinema to be equipped for Cinemascope showing The Robe from 17 May 1954 for two weeks.
This cinema was the last ABC cinema in the region to be equiped for cinemascope pictures. From May 1955, Cinemascope pictures that would normaly be expected to screen here were shown instead at the Essoldo and the New Coliseum did not screen them here until October 1956 when an MGM picture “Viva Las Vegas” was shown. It is possible that because of it’s origins as a theatre, it was difficult to fit a reasonable sized Cinemascope screen, which may also be why it had a rising festoon curtain (which I think was red) rather than the more usual side opening tabs. It was certainly the case that the Essoldo had a larger screen. Nevertheless in the summer of 1967, Doctor Zhivago was shown here and ran for four weeks. The last programme to be shown was Dirty Dingus Magee + The Extraordinary Seaman.
The cinema played second run films almost exclusively, although, oddly my recollection is that they charged higher prices than the ABC and Odeon. One film that did play here first run was the John Carpenter film “Dark Star” which gave me the unique experience of being the sole member of the audience to see it.
When I knew it in the sixties, it showed all sorts of X-rated product. Although the quality of films shown declined sharply after the Tyneside Film Theatre opened in 1968, before that, it showed a much wider range of product and was the place to go for films from directors such as Ingmar Bergman. It was here that I first saw the classic sci-fi film “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. I also saw the spoof horror film, “What a Carve Up” and also two classic westerns, “High Noon” and “Fort Apache”. It was a fascinating place to go to when it was a cinema, and I would sometimes go there simply for the pleasure of visiting the place.
I would query the statement that it was taken over by an independent. Looking through the local newspaper from that time, I can find no evidence that it saw any further use as a cinema after Rank closed it. Latterly, it showed the National release, but subsequently, National releases were spread among the other three cinemas in the town. As a child, I recall seeing the Hammer version of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” at this cinema.
I don’t think that it was ever renamed ABC. From it’s press advertising, it would appear to have retained the Ritz name until the end. The last film to be shown was “A Kind of Loving”.