Picture House

1 Market Street,
Eastleigh, SO50 5RJ

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The new Picture House opened by George Wright on 29th July 1932 was an elegant building and during its life had no major alterations made to it. The cinema opened with Lilian Harvey and Henry Garat in “Congress Dances”, and was advertised as ‘The cutest cinema within a radius of 100 miles’, which was quite a claim seeing that would have taken in all of Greater London.

The new cinema was conventionally built; the facade was covered with polished slate to first floor level and then white cement enhanced with strips of coloured neon lighting. A metal and glass canopy the width of the entrance doors overhung the pavement and with marble steps leading into the foyer. The foyer was symmetrical with a box office on the right and left hand side of the wide marble (imitation) stairs, divided centrally by an ornamental rail, leading to the circle foyer.

The local paper reported that with the opening of the magnificent new Picture House we have a building that brings great credit to the town. In miniature it can be claimed to be as luxurious as those vast ‘palaces of pleasure’ that have sprung up in the bigger towns, and certainly there is no cinema of its size in the South of England which can come up to it. Councillor George Wright is to be congratulated on his ambitious scheme.
The seating was for 800 people and for its time was a very comfortable cinema.

The auditorium was finished with decorative plaster with wooden light troughs situated in positions to allow the colour lights to blend and form part of the decoration. The proscenium was 25 feet wide. The new cinema was equipped with Kalee Model 8 projectors from Gaumont and sound heads from RCA.
In July 1955 CinemaScope was installed and unveiled with Judy Garland in "A Star Is Born".

The Picture House closed on 19th December 1959; in its final advert placed in the local paper of the 10th December there was no mention of its closure.

It seems appropriate that the final supporting picture was ‘Downbeat’, however it was an inconspicutive week programme wise which probably explains why so many cinemas were closing at this time.

The closure was mentioned the following week saying ‘It has been a strange and sad sight in Market Street this week to see the once familiar neon signs outside the Picture House unlit and the cinema dark and deserted. A deal is in course of negotiation for a supermarket to be erected on the site. Planning permission has already been granted. Final performances took place on Saturday, and at the end of the evening the doors were locked for the last time. Lack of support has led to the closure. Television has been the chief cause of the fall in attendances, allied to the fact that the smaller privately owned cinemas are finding it increasingly difficult to book suitable attractions. Houses have been so small that hardly enough money has been taken to meet the electricity costs.

Parts of it were quickly demolished and in its place Eastleigh’s first supermarket, Fine Fare opened.

Contributed by Patrick Hayward
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