Palace Cinema

Chopwell Road,
Blackhall Mill, NE17 7TN

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Palace Cinema

In the village of Blackhall Mill, to the south of Chopwell in County Durham, the Palace Cinema opened early in 1914.

John Cheeseman, of Chopwell, formed the Blackhall Mill Palace Company in 1913. The Palace Cinema was built of brick, with an asbestos-slated roof. Under a small canopy, twin entrance doors led into the foyer and pay box. At the left and right there were stairs up to the 632-seat auditorium, which was 64ft long by 41ft wide on a stadium plan. The pit was separated from the stalls by a wooden barrier. The 23ft by 18ft stage was fronted by an orchestra pit, and there were three dressing rooms. At either side of the proscenium there were painted murals depicting Oriental dancing girls.

Electric power was provided by Chopwell colliery; it was said that every time the coal cutters started up, the lights in the Palace Cinema flickered!

At the rear of the auditorium there were two boxes. They had bentwood armchairs, and the front of each was covered with red velvet – just wide enough for a box of chocolates!

Sol Sheckman, then at the beginning of his career as an exhibitor, leased the Palace Cinema from 1923 to 1927, with R. M. Dainton as his manager.

John Cheeseman’s Chopwell Cinema Company took over in 1928, with G. Stoddart running the cinema from 1930. British Talking Picture(BTP) sound was introduced in 1932 and occasional variety shows were held. As the only substantial hall in the village, the Palace cINEMA was in demand for political and other meetings.

Thomas R. Murray leased it from 1937. It joined Trotter and Murray Cinemas Ltd. in 1946, then Derwent Cinemas, its final owner, in 1947.

The Palace Cinema closed on 23rd November 1957 (with, by then, 550 seats).

The building became Blackhall Mill Social Club.

Contributed by David Simpson
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