Canton Cinema

194 Cowbridge Road East,
Cardiff, CF5 1GW

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The Canton Cinema

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened circa-1914 in the Canton area of Cardiff and was extended in 1933 by demolishing two houses behind the screen end.

The entrance was moved from the corner to the opposite side where a new lounge had been added. The decorative style resembled most of the cinemas in the group.

Suffered slight damage during an air-raid in 1941 but continued as part of the locally-owned Splott Circuit (later Jackson Withers) of which two groups of four showed the same programmes and changed mid-week. For some time the Canton was grouped with the Gaiety, Tivoli and County. The other group was Splott, Ninian, Regent and Monico (of which more will be written later). The Avenue and Plaza were usually separate.

All the group were equipped with Cinemascope and decorative exterior neon lighting in 1955 and here at the Canton Cinema, the alterations were carried out by the offices of architect David Evelyn Nye. By 1958 closures had begun, the small Tivoli Theatre and the newest, the Avenue Theatre, were first to go.

The Canton Cinema closed for conversion into a supermarket, and under various owners has continued as such ever since. A dance floor built at first floor level was for some time operated as the New Capitol, replacing the former basement dance studio at the Capitol Theatre.

Contributed by Geoff

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

edithapearce
edithapearce on April 15, 2009 at 2:19 am

I did visit the Canton a few times but cannot recall if it was using its drapes. Could it have been a management decision not to use them?

However, when houses were converted for scope it was quite common for halls to install festoons instead of drapes. I don’t think I ever operated at a Withers hall, post 1960, that did not have either drapes or alternatively festoons fitted.

geoffjc
geoffjc on April 15, 2009 at 5:39 am

When four of the cinemas in the group, in this case “Gaiety, Tivoli, Canton, County” in 1958 showed the same programme the showing times advertised were identical.
Generally the main feature was shown at about 5.15 (depending on running time) with the “Last Complete Programme” at around 7 p.m. containing , at that time, Pathe News,an occasional cartoon and what was shown on the board as “Interest”(supplied by Pearl & Dean).
The history of the building, particularly the extension , is well documented.The alteration for ‘scope, designed by the office of David Evelyn Nye,left a number of the front seats, sold as “Pit” with a poor
view

edithapearce
edithapearce on April 15, 2009 at 11:28 am

What normally happened was that Jackson Withers managers were given the starting times of the features as advertised in the papers.For obvious reasons the features were presented at those times.They also knew that they had to run the main advertisements (they were Pearl, Dean and Younger in those days)twice. The aim being to complete showing the main feature at around 10.30 pm.
The term “Interest” was another term for what the staff called “Balancers”. That is to say shorts which filled in timing holes. Usually presentations would start with advertisements followed by trailers and then either a balancer or straight on to the feature.

edithapearce
edithapearce on April 15, 2009 at 11:49 am

Outside of timing constrictions, managers had the choice of how the show was presented. That is to say how house lights, footies, breaks and interval music choices were operated and presented. For historical reasons nearly every Withers house was equipped differently and thus presentation routines were very varied. For example you could usually raise festoons while the silent BBFC certificate was showing and fade the music out in the few dark seconds before the feature came up.With drapes you had to open up the screen prior to the BBFC certificate being projected as it could not not be seen against the usual dark velvet material. Thus the footies were left on and faded out during the certificate to minimise the effect of a blank screen.

edithapearce
edithapearce on April 15, 2009 at 12:18 pm

When I started at Warner Pathe in late 1955 most South Wales Cinemas took Pathe News.There were exceptions – Rank cinemas had their own Gaumont British News.Willis cinemas did not take Pathe either. By 1960 the take up of Pathe News was becoming very much reduced.It could not compete with the up to the minute news and news reels offered by the BBC and ITV. I can remember the shock and horror in the office when Jackson Withers decided not to renew their Pathe contract. Pathe news reels had a two week life. One week in a first run house and then a week in a 2nd tier house. After that the reels were dispatched back to London via FTS. Rumour had it that the expired news copies were later burnt to recover the silver in the film. I’m not sure now about the truth of this rumour but that is what all the vault staff believed at that time..

geoffjc
geoffjc on April 15, 2009 at 2:15 pm

The Scope plans by D E Nye for all the group involved relatively minor alterations to the proscenium opening from (in most cases) William Wort’s 1930’s designs, removing decorative plasterwork to accommodate extra screen width.
The Canton by 1958 had no operating curtains and very little in the way of footlights, compared with the Regent’s full curtains and the Festoon curtain and lighting at the Plaza, (almost identical to the Odeon)

geoffjc
geoffjc on April 29, 2010 at 5:05 am

The building , currently an Iceland supermarket, has been externally painted white, but the upstairs ballroom, added after closure as a cinema, remains vacant.

geoffjc
geoffjc on November 11, 2012 at 6:41 am

November 2012- Martial Arts Organisation using upstairs former dance area.

andrewrichards
andrewrichards on June 2, 2013 at 6:38 am

I am part of the team using the upstairs of this building as a Tae Kwon Do club. I was unaware of its history until I came across this site. I would love to know more.

geoffjc
geoffjc on June 2, 2013 at 7:06 am

Andrew can find many of the plans of the building at the Glamorgan Archive (off Sloper Road) , most are in the 1933 bundle. The addition of the dance floor after the cinema closed in late 1960, and alterations for use as a supermarket may be documented in the Council Planning Dept who retain plans for after the mid 1950’s and could be accessible as public records at the City Hall. There are a few pictures in the local history books and details of the films shown usually appear in the local newspapers available on microfilm in the Central Library.

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