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Probably Cumbria’s most luxurious cinema, the Ritz opened on 26th September 1938 with Deanna Durbin in “Mad About Music”, with seating for 1,400 in stalls and balcony. It was designed by local architect T. Nicholson and had a foyer lined with Australian Walnut panelling and chrome fittings. The auditorium had troughs containing concealed lighting in the ceiling. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 3Manual/5Rank organ which had an illuminated console on a lift. The organ was opened by Harry Croft. The instument was originally installed in the Niles Theatre, New Ulm, Minnesota, USA.
Operated throughout its life by Graves Cinemas Ltd, the Ritz was tripled by them and reopened on 17 May 1982 with two mini-cinemas situated under the balcony. The circle continued as Screen 1 with no apparent alteration, using the original box and screen.
However in a small town this still proved too large and the Ritz closed on 28 February 1988 and was demolished the following month. A good send off was provided with the 1945 film “Anchors Aweigh” and a short stage interlude. The organ had been removed some years earlier, has been restored and is in private hands. Other Art Deco artefacts were rescued from the building before the wrecking crew moved in.
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