Winter Gardens Cinema

Church Road,
Liverpool, L22 5NA

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Located in the Liverpool district of Waterloo, this building was probably erected in the 1870’s. It passed through many uses, including gymnasium and billiards hall, until the lease was acquired by W. Weber and Weisker Picture Palaces Ltd., who re-opened it on Monday 13th December 1909 as the New Picture Hall.

After only a short while, the hall was closed, and then re-opened, by the same lessees, on 28th February 1910, now called the Winter Gardens. That evening, at 8pm, the ‘World in Motion Entertainments’ was supported by live entertainers, comedians and dancers.

The Weisker lease terminated in April 1913 and the Waterloo Winter Gardens Company took over, with manager Jack Wellings. The hall was again closed, on 28th July, for a complete refurbishment, which including increasing the seating capacity to 450 (the original capacity is not known).

In February 1914 the cinema came under the management of John Carr. He was followed, on 20th April that year, by Kinema (Waterloo) Ltd., who changed the name to the Waterloo Picture Playhouse. Regular live entertainment ceased at this time.

However, on 29th July 1922, the Waterloo Picture Playhouse closed with “The Carnival of Truth”, starring Suzanne Depris, to be converted into a live theatre, the Winter Gardens, run by Frederick V. Ross. The building was modernised (in effect, virtually rebuilt) to the plans of Liverpool architect Colin S. Brothers. Extensive internal alterations increased the seating capacity to 650 by the construction of an entirely new balcony, which could seat 170.

The Winter Gardens Theatre opened, after only seven weeks, on 22nd September 1922, with a variety performance of “Harry Leslie’s Famous Nobodies”.

The theatre closed on 27th June 1931, for extensive redecoration and conversion back to a cinema, now with a British Talking Picture(BTP) sound system for the ‘talkies’.

Under the management of Horace C. Lewis, the Winter Gardens Cinema opened on 26th December 1931 with “Let Live and Laugh”, starring Ronald Frankau, who had appeared on the stage there in 1930 in his show “Cabaret Kittens”.

Even now, live shows were not completely dispensed with, and the stage was used quite regularly for productions by the Waterloo and Crosby Amateur Operatic Society.

From 1945, until closure, the cinema was in the hands of the Heyes family.

According to the Kinematograph Year Book for 1953, at that time the seating capacity had been increased slightly, to 670.

The live shows ceased in the early-1960’s, when the stalls seating was removed to accommodate ‘beat’ dances on weekend evenings. In 1963 the seating capacity had slightly increased to 682. But rising costs and dwindling audiences were taking their toll, and the Winter Gardens Cinema closed on 4th September 1965 with “The Train”, starring Burt Lancaster.

Just over a month later, the building re-opened as the Winter Gardens Bingo Hall. This closed in September 1979.

The building lay unused until 1982, when it was acquired by the Kingsway Christian Fellowship. The entire frontage was demolished and replaced by the present one of red brick, with the entrance projecting forward at the left hand side. The building opened under its new guise in April 1983.

Contributed by David Simpson
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