95-99 High Street West,
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Previously operated by: Associated British Cinemas Ltd.
Architects: Percy Lindsay Browne, Charles Alfred Harding
Firms: Percy Lindsay Browne, Son & Harding
Styles: Art Deco
The Ritz Cinema opened on 15th May 1939 with Jackie Cooper in “Gangster’s Boy”. Built for the Associated British Cinemas(ABC) chain, it was designed by the noted firm of Percy L. Browne, Son and Harding who were fairly prolific in cinema design in the north east of England.
It had total seating capacity for 1,636, with 1,092 in the stalls and 544 in the circle. It was in the Art Deco style with sinuous lines of curving plaster and decorative grilles around extraction vents. The proscenium is 40 feet wide and there is a 20 feet deep stage.
The Ritz Cinema closed on the 8th September 1962 with Alan Bates in “A Kind of Loving”. It was converted to bingo club operated by Mecca Bingo. The Mecca Bingo Club was closed on 9th October 2011.
In July 2014 plans were announced that it would be converted in a pub for the J.D. Wetherspoon chain, which was opened on 12th May 2015 as the Ritz. Unfortunately the conversion to a pub has not been kind to the building. J.D. Wetherspoon are usually very good at retaining the historic fabric of their buildings, but in the case of the Ritz, the foyer was demolished to provide an outdoor smoking area and the auditorium has had a false ceiling inserted, which hides most of the original decorative features.
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Recent comments (view all 6 comments)
Photos of the building can be found here (taken in 2009):–
I don’t think that it was ever renamed ABC. From it’s press advertising, it would appear to have retained the Ritz name until the end. The last film to be shown was “A Kind of Loving”.
I think you may be right JohnGn – it was referred to as the ABC Ritz, but it closed about the time the circuit was rebranded with the sole ABC name.
This is going to be a Wetherspoons Pub. Sadly it was never listed and looking at the proposal I understand the foyer (which has a wonderful ceiling hidden beneath) and ticket office is being demolished to create a open smoking area. I also understand that the fantastic auditorium ceiling is being hidden with a suspended ceiling :( :(
Saw the building converted as a pub. Ask the features have been hidden or demolished. Posterior of entrance foyer, inner foyer and circle staircase demolished and no access, New pub is modern box within building. Traffic considering the nearby wallaw approach compared to this. Exterior is better as paint removed and resorted but grills and entrance doors gone now gates and new signage I’d not in keeping with original design
Wetherspoon have absolutely butchered the original interior and virtually nothing remains apart from the foyer ceilings. The entrance foyer walls have been stripped back to bare brick and the art deco staircase up to the circle/balcony has been ripped out. When you see the ceilings they have retained you can imagine how impressive it would’ve been if they had retained the rest of the original decor. The pub only uses the ground floor leaving the balcony and original art deco ceiling unused and sealed off by a false ceiling.The Ritz survived virtually unaltered from 1939 up until 2014 when Wetherspoon acquired and altered it. What a shame the Ritz hadn’t been listed like the ex Wallaw cinema in blyth, designed by the same architects and also now a Wetherspoon. In the case of the Wallaw the majority of the architecture/decor survives and its impressive, thank god it was listed. When you look at the Wallaw you realise how impressive the Ritz could’ve been and what has been lost