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The Ritz Cinema in Thirsk was opened in the early Victorian era as the Mechanics Institute and was converted into a cinema known as the Picture House in 1912. The original silent movie screen still exists behind the present (much larger) screen.
When the talkies arrived the cinema was extended, by building a balcony to increase the capacity to 470 seats, when it re-opened it had the new name of Ritz Cinema. This balcony was reached by a staircase from the main foyer, which linked to an arm of the circle at its lowest level.
It was an extremely popular cinema during 1930’s to 1950’s aided by many forces personnel who were based in the area. It was acquired by Star Cinemas in 1953 who flirted with bingo here and renamed it again, this time to Studio One. By the early 1970’s it had closed.
However in 1974 it was brought out of mothballs and resumed showing films until another brief closure in 1994. In March 1995 it re-opened yet again under the Ritz name as a part Thirsk Town Council venture using volunteer staff. This proved successful and continues today, although control has been handed over to the Volunteer Management Committee. Volunteer staff are always needed so if you live in the Thirsk area then contact the box office any evening!
The Ritz Cinema has an unusual layout with the lop-sided balcony and the screen being at the front end of the building. It is an extremely friendly venue, in contrast to the faceless multiplexes, has a rising festoon curtain in front of the screen. Many improvements have been carried out with the introduction of ‘Dolby’ sound, a new screen, better seating and redecoration. It now seats 204 with 128 in the stalls and 76 in the circle. Long may it continue.
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