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Less than 3 weeks after turning off the lights of the Newtownards Electric Theatre in Great Frances Street (later known as Francis Street), Irish Electric Palaces opened a replacement cinema in nearby Regent Street. In addition to a change of venue, the new cinema had also been given a new name – The Picture House. Alf Thomas, the manager of the Electric Palace, did not transfer to The Picture House. Instead, Herbert Rogers, who had previously been managing the St. George’s Hall cinema in Belfast’s High Street, was appointed to run it.
The new premises, which opened on 25th October 1913, were undoubtedly a conversion of an existing building; there are no reports that it was a new-build. The exact site is still to be determined (we do not have a street number) but there is a possible clue in an article in the Newtownards Chronicle of 13th October 1977, which said there was an earlier cinema in Brewery Lane (a narrow street, in situ, off Regent Street). Was this the site of The Picture House and was it, perhaps, on the corner of Brewery Lane and Regent Street?
Nothing has been found in the local press to explain the sudden closing of The Picture House around 13th November 1920; the usual advertisement had appeared in the Newtownards Chronicle a week earlier, with no sign of any change imminent. Since November 1918, when its local rival, the Palace Cinema, had burnt down, it had been the town’s only cinema. Irish Electric Palaces must have been aware that Morrison’s, the Palace Cinema’s owner, was planning to re-open and with a more modern and commodious auditorium. This may have been a factor in their decision to close The Picture House. The result of this was that for a couple of months, including the Christmas season, Newtownards was left without a cinema, until the Palace Cinema reopened early the following year.
For more on the Newtownards Electric Theatre, see Palace Cinema, Newtownards entry in Cinema Treasures.
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