1 The Bridge,
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Previous Names: Picture House, Gaumont
The Picture House in Lower Bridge Street, Walsall opened in July 1920 with a showing of "Woman" starring Florence Billings. It was a project of the Associated Provincial Picture House chain, and was designed by London based architects Robert Atkinson and George Alexander, who had designed their Queens Picture House in Wolverhampton. On the 1st September 1923 the Picture House was destroyed by a fire.
It’s owners, APPH/Provincial Cinematograph Theatres(PCT) rebuilt the Picture House to the designs of architectural firm Percy Lindsey Browne & Glover. It re-opened on 26th December 1924.
The Picture House had the very first Wurlitzer cinema organ to be installed in the United Kingdom. The 2Manual/6Ranks instrument was shipped over onboard the Cunard Line ‘Mauretania’ and opened on 26th January 1925 by organist Jack Courtnay. The exterior of the building was faced in white tiles manufactured by the Hathern Station Brick & Terra Cotta Company. The foyer was decorated in a Tudor style, with a carved timber real coal burning fireplace. Inside the auditorium there were slips on each side of the balcony, leading to exits. The cinema had a very popular café/restaurant, which remained open throughout its life.
In February 1929 PCT were taken over by Gaumont, but the Picture House wasn’t renamed Gaumont until 1948. When CinemaScope was installed in 1955, the Wurlitzer organ was removed from the building and was taken to the Congregational Church in the small fishing village of Beer, on the south coast of Devon. It was undergoing restoration in 2011.
Gaumont British Theatres became part of the Rank Organisation and the Gaumont was re-named Odeon from 22nd October 1965. The auditorium and foyers were ‘modernised’ in 1967, destroying the charming ambience of the cinema and it re-opened 26th June 1967. On 2nd March 1971, it was again destroyed by fire, this time in an arson attack. The remains of the frontage was boarded up, which was how it remained for several years before being sold and re-developed.
A Tesco Metro supermarket was built on the site. This had closed by February 2013. In 2016 it was a Co-Op Supermarket.
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