Monico Cinema

Pantbach Road,
Cardiff, CF4 1UG

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Showing 21 comments

edithapearce on February 25, 2012 at 12:06 am

This morning a friend sent me a photograph of the Monico taken shortly before the cinema closed. It came as quite a surprise to me. In my days at the Monico (1960s) the entrance to the cinema was at the bull nose facing directly at the point where Tyn y Parc Road and Pantbach Road junctioned. The brown stained pay box,occupied by long serving cashier Marge, directly faced the entrance.To the right of the pay box was the sweet and kiora kiosk and again to the right of the kiosk was the entrance to the stalls. The manager’s office being at the far end of the stall’s entrance area

The picture I have received today shows the entrance having been moved to the south west of the building and obviously going through what was once the area of the manager’s office. The bull nose entrance now being replaced by a wall bearing a quad poster frame. In my day the cinema was gray concrete all over having never been painted.

The only renovation of the hall in the 1960s,as far as I can recall, was the roof being resealed and the installation of magnetic sound. I was surprised to see that so many changes had been made to the hall exterior, especially to the entrance, presumably post 1965? Were these changes a part of the hall being twinned?

Incidentally, around 1960 the then manager of the hall asked Jackson Withers if it would be possible to attach an electric motor to the masking so that it could be adjusted from the box. The answer was a firm “NO”! The miserly circuit management instead deciding that it would be cheaper to employ a rewind boy at three pounds a week who could manually under take masking adjustments from behind the screen plus do general cleaning during the day time two hour maintenance shift.

geoffjc on June 1, 2011 at 3:54 am

This page needs an update too!

Sean Pursey
Sean Pursey on January 31, 2011 at 11:36 am

Thanks Alex, that would be great!

Plaza1985 on January 31, 2011 at 2:17 am

Hi Sean,

I have a 2003 Wales This week 25 minute special on the Monico closing (it’s all in English). It’s similar to the one aired for years earlier about Plaza closing, but more solely about the Monico.

I’ll try and post it to my YouTube channel in the next few weeks and send a link here too.


Eric Evans
Eric Evans on January 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Hi SeanP, Unable at the moment to transfer my video on line, hope to do so soon.

AdoraKiaOra on January 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Any pics anyone can post here????

Eric Evans
Eric Evans on January 24, 2011 at 10:40 am

Just had another look at my video,there was an organ as verified by Element54,could not tell the make of the instrument. I never saw the Monico inside or out except for photographs but I had no reason to make this up.

AdoraKiaOra on January 22, 2011 at 4:23 am

The Plaza Swansea had a magnificent organ.

edithapearce on January 22, 2011 at 3:52 am

The Monico’s four track magnetic sound system was in place when I was doing casual work at the cinema in the early part of the 1960s. I can never ever recall it being used or even a hearing a mention of it being used in past times. The amplifier, in a tall silver cabinet, stood at the back of the box adjacent to the tall black cabinet that contained the Westrex Sound System. The grey magnetic sound head pickup boxes on the projectors were located below the optical sound heads. The Westars and optical boxes required a two finger loop between the feed sprockets. The magnetic units requiring a three finger loop. The Monico projectors had a fast take up from the start so it was common to lace the leaders with six in the gate.

geoffjc on January 22, 2011 at 2:23 am

Brian Bull installed an electronic organ in the larger screen when he twinned the Monico. I think it was a “Conacher”(or something similar). It was placed in front of the screen curtains as if it was a Compton or Wurlitzer.
If anyone has the date when Circle Cinemas acquired the Monico it should be possible to find the press cuttings advertising the 4-track magnetic sound screenings which probably took place before the twinning and Dolby installation.

Update to the opening film still awaited!

edithapearce on January 21, 2011 at 11:21 pm

It is interesting to note Eric Evans mention of an organ at the Monico Cinema. I knew the hall quite well from the time I started work at Warner-Pathe in 1955 until I left Cardiff around 1963. I’m one hundred per cent certain that the Monico did not boast an organ whilst I visited the cinema; firstly as a spectator and later as a casual projectionist. Looking back over my career as a jobbing projectionist, I can only ever recall visiting two cinemas in South Wales that boasted working organs.Those were the Capitol and Park Hall cinemas in Cardiff. Alas! I never had the oportunity of working these halls as they did not employ jobbers.

Sean Pursey
Sean Pursey on January 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Any chance you could get that online Eric?

edithapearce on November 21, 2009 at 6:28 am

The box at the Monico ran almost the full width of the cinema. It consisted of an entrance to the left of the balcony that went up to a passage, beside the rectifier room, to the box proper. At the left hand side of the box was the rewind room. From the rewind room there was a door that led out onto an extensive balcony area that gave great views of Whitchurch and Rhiwbina. On the left hand side of the balcony was an iron ladder, going down to the car park, that dated from the inflammable film days. Its function was to provide an escape route for projectionists if the box caught fire.
I have just looked at some photographs taken after the hall’s twinning and note that the ladder had been removed by that time.

edithapearce on October 4, 2009 at 11:23 pm

One of the joys of a relief session at the Monico was the opportunity to experiment with the lighting panel. By carefully manipulating the three main levers one could place a vast range of colours both on the drapes and the screen. The top of the board , if I remember correctly ,consisted of a number of levers connected to a drive bar and a wheel.This enabled the operator to dim all of the house lights at the same time as the colours were being faded down over the mono BB Film Censor Certificate.

geoffjc on July 8, 2009 at 2:07 pm

When first acquired by Circle Cinemas there were a few advertised showings of films with magnetic sound.(Some time in the library will be required to confirm the details !)
The lighting panel made by Furse is now in the collection of a local group hoping to establish a cinema museum.

AdoraKiaOra on March 28, 2009 at 7:40 am

Thank you, your stories are fascinating.

edithapearce on March 28, 2009 at 5:25 am

There has always been much speculation as to how the Monico got its name.
Some time around 1964 I was given a late night lift home from another Withers cinema by a Mr.Ponkin who was a Jackson Withers manager.
I took the chance to ask him about the name Monico. He told me that one of the pre war circuit managers had visited Greece and come across the word there. Apparently it was the ancient Greek word for a theatre or some such similar place of entertainment.

edithapearce on March 28, 2009 at 3:37 am

The box also possessed magnetic film track capabilities but I can never recall it being used. Owing to the size of the box and the masking adjustment problem, the box was normally operated by two projectionists. Each one taking responsibility for a machine. Jack Yates was a perfectionist when it came to presentation and every thing had to be spot on.
The manager of the cinema, in the 1960s, was Ian Evans who always looked resplendent in his well tailored dinner suit as he greeted patrons. The matinee children always called him “Uncle Ian.”

edithapearce on March 28, 2009 at 3:28 am

In the 1960s the cinema box contained two Peerless Magna Arcs connected to Westar projection heads and Kalee sound heads. The arcs were fed from a mercury arc rectifier which was one of a pair located in a separate room.Each week an alternating rectifier was used. There was also a slide lantern and a very complicated set of lighting controls that gave a large range of screen/drape colours. Normal practice was to use green/blue shades in the summer to give an air of coolness and red in the winter to suggest warmth. The drapes were operated from the box but the masking had to be adjusted manually from behind the screen.

geoffjc on April 18, 2007 at 1:18 pm

At the beginning of the Bingo era, the game was played at the Monico on Sundays only.

geoffjc on April 11, 2007 at 4:40 am

A half-page article and advertisement in the local press on the Saturday before opening states that the Monico was a Splott Cinema from the start, (though a later licence was granted under the “Luxury Cinema Co” name, just as the Avenue and County were built by the “Rumely Cinema Co”, owned by the Splott Company.)
The architect was the Splott Company’s usual choice, William S Wort, the builder was J.E.Evans & Co.

Among the innovations were Western Electic Mirrophonic Sound, the first local installation.

However, the opening programme was “Theodora Goes Wild”(Irene Dunne & Melvyn Douglas) and “Bengal Tiger” (Barton Maclaine & June Travis), showing Monday to Wednesday.

The Management had to apologise via Tuesday’s paper, for a breakdown on Opening night.