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The Crystal Palace Theatre was opened on6th April 1918. It had a very narrow entrance which was topped by a decorative tower, based on designs by Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Mary le Bow church in London, England. It had a large, ornate auditorium, which contained 3 boxes and around 1,075 seats. It had Venetian murals and small fountains on each side of the proscenium. It had a 20-piece orchestra to accompany the silent films and variety acts on the stage. It was the last cinema in Christchurch city centre to be equipped for sound films.
In 1932, it became an ‘All British Cinema’, screening films only from the United Kingdom. In 1935 it was taken over by the Williamson’s circuit and they removed the boxes and 150 seats, giving a reduced seating capacity of 930. It was taken over by Amalgamated Theatres in 1936, and they operated it as an ‘action’ house into the 1950’s.
The Crystal Palace Theatre was modernised in 1963, and the decorative tower on the façade was shortened and was encased in metal sheeting. It was re-named Carlton Theatre, and operated until 1986 when it was demolished.
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