Palace Cinema

Main Street,
Newcastle, BT33

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Palace Cinema

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The Palace Cinema, in Newcastle, County Down, opened in the late-1920’s. It was built by Bob Cusack, of nearby Castewellan, and Bob Barclay, of Inglis’s Bakery, but Mr Cusack appears to have been the more prominent partner and, as he usually took the money at the pay box, the cinema was commonly known as “Cusack’s”. The proscenium width was 24ft. Piano accompaniment, for the silent films, was provided by Anna Doherty. The first projectionist was Bob Russell, using a hand operated projector, and the first manageress was Susan Murphy, who apparently used to call out to passing children to “tell your mother there’s a good picture on tonight” and “tell her to come early or she won’t get a seat!”. Despite at least one drawback – only a single toilet to cater for everyone – the crowds packed in and this was a popular cinema.

“Oklahoma” starring Gordon MacRae and Gloria Grahame, ran for three weeks, with queues stretching down the road, while other successful films, resulting in Standing Room Only, included “Camille” (Greta Garbo), “Wuthering Heights” (Merle Oberon and Lawrence Olivier) and “The Quiet Man” (John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara). The success of “The Song of Bernadette”, starring Jennifer Jones, led one wag to christen the cinema “Cusack’s Mission”!

The Palace Cinema was gutted by IRA terrorist fire bombs on 2nd July 1974. Three years later the then proprietor, J. D. Corkin, of Lurgan, lodged a planning application to demolish the derelict building and build a new cinema. Sadly this never appeared and a block of flats, with shops below, was subsequently built on the site.

Contributed by David Simpson
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