Alhambra Picture Theatre
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The Alhambra Picture Palace was a 1912, purpose-built cinema to the designs of local architect William Heap who was also responsible for the new Imperial Cinema (1921) and the rebuilt Pentridge Cinema (1921) also in Burnley. It was on land between Trafalgar Street and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal not far from the street’s junction with Westgate. It advertised as being near the Mitre public house, which was at that junction. The Alhambra Picture Theatre site is now a car park. The adjacent mill building still stands (in 2015).
The cinema opened for public inspection on 6th and 7th February 1912, but was unable to obtain licences permitting it to open until May (or later) that year. A neighbouring building, the Ruskin Hall which seated 600, was being leased to operators who already held the necessary licences until late-April 1912 and would not relinquish them. They called their venue Pictureland. The magistrates would not license two closely situated venues. For many weeks, the Alhambra’s owners advertised it for letting for “Public Meetings and Lectures”. The advert gave the capacity as “1,300 tip-up seats”; the Kinematograph Year Book for 1914 gives 1,350.
The original owners, Alhambra (Burnley Ltd), leased the cinema to Standard Cinema Properties Ltd. of New Street Birmingham who closed it in early-August 1930 for refurbishment and for installing Western Electric(WE) sound. It reopened on 1st September 1930. The same company had acquired the Pentridge Cinema and installed WE there; and renamed it Regal Cinema. Kinematograph Year Book 1931 lists the Birmingham owners. However in 1933 the operators are Alhambra (Burnley) Ltd, again. In the early-1950’s ownership passed to Northern Operators whose offices were in the Pentridge Cinema, the ‘Regal’ name having lapsed. They ran a small, very local, chain of cinemas.
Back in 1912, William Marshall owner of the Ruskin Hall offered the property to the council for use as a free library. It opened on 23 February 1914 as the Marshall Branch Library. It closed in 1970 and was demolished. It suffered rising damp from the canal; which means it was adjacent to the Alhambra Picture Theatre, positioned between it and the Westgate junction.
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