Ritz Cinema

416 Bitterne Road, Bitterne,
Southampton, SO18 5RS

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Several of Southampton’s cinemas were built by Brazier’s building company, and the (then village) of Bitterne had their very own 820 seater Ritz Cinema built by them and opened on 28th September 1936 with Jack Hulbert in “Jack of All Trades” plus “Men of Action”

There was a Regency-style theme of green and cream decoration throughout with a grand looking letter"R" on a plaque centered above the square stage archway. The original traveler curtains were rich bottle green velvet with illumination from a row of dim footlights. Intermission music was so often provided by scratchy-old 78rpm records of German born pianist Charlie Kunz. His well known signature tune was "Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie." Interestingly, the BBC banned his recordings from wartime broadcasts because a form of Morse Code was detected which could be picked up by the Nazis.

Sale of this quite modern looking, brick built cinema took place in about 1957 to Harry Mears. His company jazzed things up with remodeling the auditorium, installing white satin curtains along with flashy-coloured stage lights. The grand re-opening night presented a spectacular western/musical "Carousel" but audiences were totally drowned by the gaudyness of their quiet little cinema with sound loud enough to wake the dead.

On 1st July 1961, Bitterne’s picture-goers saw "The Last Command" and “Mutiny” when the cinema was closed. After a quick demolition, shops and a bowling alley now occupy the site on the busy two lane main A27 road.

Contributed by Simon Overton
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