Avenue Cinema

Royal Avenue,
Belfast, BT1 1DD

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Avenue Cinema

The Picture House was opened on 19th June 1911 by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres(PCT). It was located on a corner site at the corner of Royal Avenue and Garfield Street. It was within a building containing offices and shops. Without the advertising signage, there would have been no indication that the building contained a cinema. The Picture House had a 29 feet wide proscenium and an added facility was a cafe for the convenience of patrons. In 1922 it was taken over by Northern Theatres.

The Picture House had one main claim to fame, as it was the first cinema in Northern Ireland to screen ‘talkies’, when Al Jolson in "The Singing Fool" played for eight weeks, four times a day in 1929. In 1947 it was taken over by the Curran Theatres chain and re-named Regent Cinema after a refurbishment in September 1947. The re-opening was attended by film star John Mills, and he was the star of the main feature film "So Well Remembered".

The Curan Theatres chain were taken over by Odeon (Northern Ireland) Ltd. part of the Rank Organisation in December 1956. In March 1961, Rank purchased the surrounding buildings, and there was speculation about the future of the Gaumont (former Classic). The Rank Organisation decided to modernise the Hippodrome Theatre, after which, the Hippodrome was re-named Odeon. The Regent Cinema was modernised by the Rank Organisation in 1965 and it was re-named Avenue Cinema.

In 1974, the Avenue Cinema was damaged in an IRA bomb attack on the nearby Grand Central Hotel, which at the time was being used as Headquarters for the British Army. The cinema was repaired and the Rank Organisation pulled out of their Northern Ireland cinemas and left the management of the building to an independent operator.

The Avenue Cinema was closed in 1982, and was converted into a bingo club for a couple of years. It and the entire building were demolished in 1987, and the new Castle Court shopping centre was built on the site.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

Torchlight
Torchlight on October 28, 2018 at 4:30 am

The Picture House was opened on 19 June 1911 by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres Ltd (PCT). Due, possibly, to the civil unrest in the city in the early 1920s, PCT pulled out (in 1922) and the cinema was taken over by the building’s landlords, who formed a company called Northern Theatres to run it. In 1965 Rank undertook a complete modernisation of the cinema which included the installation of the most up-to-date projection equipment (to bring it up to ‘London West End standards’). Rank also changed its name to the Avenue (its nickname but never its official name) from 7 June 1965. In 1974 Rank pulled out of Northern Ireland and a local operator (Belfast Cinemas Ltd) took over; it retained the Avenue name until the cinemas eventual closure.

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