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The Popular Picture House was opened on 16th August 1928 with Lillian Gish in “Annie Laurie. It was located in the West End district of Derby, just off the city centre and although it was just off the main road called Friargate, it was hidden away behind buildings and had no presence to passing traffic.
The architects were Naylor, Sale and Woore who designed a pleasing building. The facade was bare brick which had bands of terra-cotta tiles surrounding the entrance and a recessed section running along the top of the building that had terra-cotta trimming. The cinema was never fitted with a marquee or canopy as there was an adequate queueing space within the building. Inside the auditorium was well raked and seats were on a stadium style with a raised section at the rear that did not overhang the rear stalls. This area was named the Royal Balcony and it was equipped with double lovers seats.
The Popular Picture House was built and operated as an independent cinema but was taken over by (the then expanding) Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in August 1935. ABC had just lost control of the White Hall Cinema to Odeon and they were operating the Empire, so the Popular Cinema became and remained a second run ABC house even after they built the lavish Regal Cinema in the City centre in 1938.
ABC closed the Popular Cinema on 15th March 1958 with Richard Widmark in “The Last Wagon”. The reason for closure was given due to the heavy Entertainment Tax imposed by the Government, but in reality, it was a downturn in audiences due to increased television viewing.
After closing the building remained un-used for many years, until it was given a total refurbishment, a stage was added as well as a bar and kitchen facilities and it re-opened as a cabaret club called Talk of the Midlands. Initially it was a great success and attracted big name stars like Harry Secombe, Ken Dodd, Norman Wisdom, Les Dawson, Eartha Kitt and Roy Orbison from the USA. Eventually this came came to an end, due to rising costs and the building then became Bertie’s nightclub followed by Gossips Fun Pub, but late night noise and rowdyness caused it to close in 1981.
In later years it became the Riverside Club that had a restaurant, snooker hall and sauna incorporated into the building. The Riverside name was retained when the University of Derby Students Union took over the building in September 2000 as a recreation facility. This was not to last long as plans were put forward in October 2002 to demolish and build a block of flats. And so ended the life of the ‘Pop’ as it was locally known. It was demolished in 2003 and a block of flats has been built on the site.
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