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Roll the credits

Demolition of the Ritz cinema at Parson Cross.

Demolition of the Ritz cinema at Parson Cross.

ITS silver screen was long since gone, the curtains lowered on decades of films and fun.

But now it really is the last picture show – more than 75 years after this once fine suburban Sheffield cinema first opened its doors.

Demolition crews have moved in to knock down the former Ritz cinema in Parson Cross, prominently situated at the junction of Wordsworth Avenue and Southey Green Road.

The building has stood empty and derelict for almost a decade, following the closure of its second incarnation as a bingo and social club.

But it has a more important place as an Art Deco style cinema which, with 1,700 seats, was one of the largest in the city.

The site was originally occupied by a group of farm buildings known as Toad Hole, but in the 1930s it became surrounded by a growing council housing development.

The cinema opened on December 6, 1937, with showings of Pennies From Heaven, starring Bing Crosby.

Howard Greaves of the Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society, said another piece of the city’s cinematic history had bitten the dust.

“It’s very sad really as the building survived several arson attacks over the years and was a good example of Art Deco which Sheffield has very little of.

“It’s a shame that no-one could have found another use for it after it closed as a bingo hall,” he said.

The most notable features of the building were the vertical concrete ribs which housed glass brick windows between them, giving natural light to the balcony staircases. Its auditorium tapered towards the screen, improving sound quality which was enhanced by what was then advanced new equipment, RCA Photophone’s Magic Voice of the Screen.

There was also a stage – and, although there were no dressing rooms, during the Second World War occasional charity concerts were held.

To combat the threat of television, a Cinemascope screen was installed in 1955.

The beginning of the end came in 1961 when the original owners sold up to the Leeds-based Star Cinema Group, which installed new carpets, seating, projectors and lighting.

Sunday bingo was introduced in 1962, films began to take a back seat, and the last performances came on November 9, 1966, with Kim Novak and Richard Johnson starring in The Amorous Adventures Of Moll Flanders.

n What are your memories of The Ritz? Were you a regular? Did you do your courting there? Write or email us with your recollections.

 

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