Rialto Cinema

Old Church Road,
Whitchurch, CF14 1AJ

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geoffjc on October 2, 2017 at 7:30 am

The appearance of this cinema is illustrated in the original plans (Archive) and in a newspaper photo taken some time after closure, showing little had changed in 50 years.

edithapearce on August 31, 2011 at 2:18 am

Extracted From:Some Memories of Old Whitchurch by Tudor Jones.

The Rialto Cinema has also disappeared. In its place are some new houses know as Rialto Court. So the name lives on. Saturday afternoon matinees at tuppence per person were hugely popular. Films featured serials with Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, etc, and various western cowboys. At the intermission between films, a lucky ticket number was called out. One week I won a jigsaw puzzle, one of the few prizes I have ever won in my whole life (so far!).

Michael Williams
Michael Williams on August 31, 2010 at 5:10 am

I recall visiting this cinema specifically to see this somewhat unusal set up, I don’t remember the manafacturer of the heads, but I do know thatit was a German design, as far as I know it was the only set up of this mirror image of mechs in the I>K>

edithapearce on August 30, 2010 at 7:57 pm

For this reason most Kalee Regal arcs (Models 11 onwards) had dowsing levers that were positioned on both sides of the arcs. Thus a projectionist could change to the number one machine and immediately afterwards dowse the number two machine. When changing back to the number two machine – as soon as the plates / choppers had been operated the projectionist had to race to the number one machine apply the dowsere and switch the arc off. Failure to quickly apply the dowser would lead to the arc burning through the plates or choppers.

edithapearce on August 30, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I recall that the Rialto box contained five portholes. A set of two for each machine plus one larger port next to the dimmers. These dimmer boxes were still in position but derelict in 1963. The larger of the two had obvious controlled the house lights and the smaller box controlled the footies.In most halls the number one projector was the machine on the left of the box and was the opening machine at the start of a show. To effect a changeover the projectionist had to be adjacent to the machine to which the changeover was being made. After the change over, the immediate task of the projectionist was to apply the dowser to the machine that was being retired.

edithapearce on August 30, 2010 at 7:38 pm

I am a little bit confused by Mickrick’s comments.I visited the Rialto box circa 1963. The projection equipment had long been removed but marks on the floor suggested that the equipment had been of Kalee origin. W.E.Willis (father of Rex)always favoured Kalee and, with the exception of the Swansea Grand, nearly always installed Kalee 8,11 or 12 machines with Regal arcs and RCA sound in his halls.I operated many of the South Wales 3rd level hall boxes and all were right hand laced machines when facing the screen. I never ever experienced a left hand laced machine throught my career.

geoffjc on August 26, 2010 at 6:41 am

Any further details of this unusual set-up?

Michael Williams
Michael Williams on August 26, 2010 at 6:27 am

I am quite surprised that no mention is made of the unusual set up of the mechs in this cinema. To enable the heads to be laced up and run from one position, the projectionist stood in between the machines, could lace up both machines from where he stood. I can remember visiting this box when I was a NATKE rep I also worked for some time as an an FTS driver so visited projection rooms in many South Wales cinemas

edithapearce on November 12, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Local legend has it that in its silent film days the ‘White Palace’ like most other small halls used a piano to accompany its presentations. The accompanist at the Palace for many years was Nancy Williams who later became Nancy Arthur of Taffs Well. The lady apparently attracted much critical attention in Whitchurch by purchasing an Indian model motorcycle which she used to travel from home to work. At that time it was not thought right for a lady to own, let alone ride, such a machine.

geoffjc on July 27, 2009 at 11:02 am

Street Directories in the 1920’s and early 1930’s give the name of this cinema as “White Palace” the Rialto name seems to have been adopted with the fitting of RCA sound.

edithapearce on April 7, 2009 at 7:39 pm

I would agree with a possible date of mid June 1959 for the Rialto closure.I was lodging in Old Church Road in 1960 and am certain it was not operating at that time.Being a cinema mad young lady,my day job was clerking at the Warner Pathe office/print vaults in the Cardiff Dominions Arcade.My tasks included compiling print issue sheets and print despatch cards for cinemas all over South and West Wales. The FTS (Film Transport Services)scheduling lists contained collection and delivery details for every operational cinema in South and West Wales.I can clearly recall that the Rialto was never on the FTS schedules.

geoffjc on April 7, 2009 at 1:03 pm

The architect of the Rialto was J.A.Sant, plans dated 1914, and unlike many others includes a drawing of the exterior elevation. A picture published some years after closure shows the building had altered little.
Advertisements of the cinema’s programme generally appeared with the Coliseum in the late 1950’s, but often only in Saturday’s paper.
A listing appeared on Thursday 11th June 1959 for the Thursday to Saturday show, including a Saturday matinee ,of “Carry on Nurse” and “Breakout”.
This appears to have been the last film advertised at the Rialto.

edithapearce on April 2, 2009 at 11:01 pm

The situation of the Splott Cinema was slightly different. It was a vast hall that had a very poor patronage in a low income area containing a high population. Staff had been warned around 1960 that the future of the cinema was in doubt. At that time it was being operated by Withers relief list projectionists most of who came from other local halls that had three box staff.
Bingo was tried out as a last stand operation and left everyone very surprised when it turned out to be an instant success. Had the bingo not succeeded then the Splott would have closed within months.

edithapearce on April 2, 2009 at 9:43 pm

In Jackson Withers eyes Sunday bingo was a means of dipping a foot in the water. If the Sunday bingo experiment was successful then four day bingo was introduced pretty quickly. If that too was a runner then the cinema went forward to seven day bingo. The Gaiety was a typical example of this progression. The Monico was the opposite situation. It ran Sunday bingo for about a year but attendances were not that good. The inevitable consequence was that the hall stayed with films.

edithapearce on April 2, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Staffing the halls was very easy. Front of house staff were always happy to have an extra day’s work on a Sunday and the projectionists (all Jackson Withers houses had at least two projectionists) were always equally happy to descend from the box and act as extra checkers. Payment for house staff at the Gaiety was £2 a night.The Washington (not a Withers house) paid staff £1/10 for a Wednesday afternoon and £2 for a Sunday. Additional profits came from the sale of the usual soft drinks and ice-cream. The Gaiety and the Coliseum also sold tea and coffee. If the bingo machine was not in the way of the screen it was common to dim lights and run the trailers for the next week’s showings.

edithapearce on April 2, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Bingo was an easy option to set up. All that was needed was a number board, a ball bag ( usually later replaced by a machine if the hall was successful)and a microphone for the caller. Normally the microphone was hitched into the cinema sound system. House lights and footies gave adequate illumination in most halls. The choice of caller was very important. A caller with a good charisma could often fill a hall simply on the strength of his personality. Jack Williams at the Gaiety, Ken Wardle at the Coliseum and Alan Watts (manager)at the Washington were good examples of this phenomena.

edithapearce on April 2, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I would agree that was probably the most likely case at the Rialto. Rex Willis and his son never missed a chance to squeeze every penny they could out of their ramshackle halls.

The Jackson Withers attitude to Bingo was that it offered a stream of extra income from those houses on three day cycles. Sunday bingo was outside of the cinema bye-laws and could therefore operate free of time constraints and with out the cost of renting a film for one day and paying FTS for film transport.

geoffjc on April 2, 2009 at 11:41 am

Bingo at the Rialto was advertised in the local press for a short time when the success of Bingo at the Coliseum persuaded Rex Willis to reopen the Rialto for 3 day a week Bingo along with the Globe.
It doesn’t seem to have been a success as the adverts stopped soon afterwards and films returned full-time at the Globe, but almost at once the Coliseum became a full-time Bingo Hall, and the Jackson Withers Circuit increased the amount of Bingo in their local cinemas.

edithapearce on March 28, 2009 at 9:30 pm

I can confirm that the Rialto was closed to films by 1960. I lived close to the premises, passing it every day on my way to work. I cannot recall it being used for bingo and believe it may have shut before the South Wales bingo boom of 1961.

I did get a sight of the box circa 1963 and remember that it was very small. All of the equipment had gone by then as the building was being converted for other uses. From the base marks and bolts on the box floor, I remember assuming that it must have had Kalee projectors.