Bingo sessions replace movies as bosses decide to turn Windsor Cinema into casino

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HOLLYWOOD blockbusters were replaced by roulette and bingo in November 1962 when the Windsor Cinema in Balby became a casino.

The Windsor cinema at the Oswin Avenue/Balby Road junction was opened by Suburban Cinemas (North Midlands) Ltd of Worksop on Monday August 1, 1938 and the first films were Second Best Bed (Monday-Wednesday) and The Prisoner Of Zenda (Thursday-Saturday).

There were 900 seats in the auditorium and 300 in the circle.

The Windsor Cinema was taken over by the Star Cinema Group on March 1, 1954 and improvements were carried out, including the installation of Cinemascope.

At the beginning of November 1962 it was revealed that the cinema was to be renamed the Windsor Casino and would be open each night except Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with bingo sessions starting at 7.45pm and roulette around 9.15pm.

Workmen moved in after the last film showing on Sunday, November 4, and by working night and day had the casino ready the following Thursday.

The screen was removed and the roulette tables installed on the stage area with the bingo players in the large auditorium.

A spokesman for the cinema owners, Star Association Holdings Ltd, said that they aimed to enrol about 10,000 members – membership was free – before the opening night.

He said: “We are installing continental-style tables and bringing in trained croupiers at first, but we shall be recruiting local people, who will eventually take over.

“We are looking for glamorous and intelligent young ladies and smart young men, who are good at figures, to operate the tables and we are keeping on all the existing staff in one capacity or another.”

The cinema finally closed on June 27, 1964 and was demolished shortly after.

n The people of Bentley probably needed something to distract them from the horrors of World War I when the Coliseum opened on the High Street on Monday, September 7, 1914.

It had eight dressing rooms and was able to stage variety and dramatic productions, as well as the latest films. The Coliseum had a frontage of 120 feet, a large proportion occupied by four shops, three to the left and one to the right of the hall.

Above the three shops on the left were two billiard rooms.

The proscenium opening was 30 feet wide and 125 feet high. The auditorium was on the two-tier principle and had 1,400 seats.

On the ground floor, the same as the foyer, were the orchestra stalls and pit.

James Bell’s troupe of young stars headlined the opening night at the Coliseum.

Also on the opening night, , comedian Joe Stirling ‘scored a signal success, so much so that he was twice ‘encored’.

Comedienne Fanny Needham sang several catchy songs, which earned her ‘the warm approbation of the company’.

In later years the premises were used as a gymnasium and were gutted by fire in September 1981.

n In February 1924, Carcroft’s new cinema was nearing completion and a test was made to find out whether the gallery was capable of withstanding the greatest strains likely to be put upon it.

West Riding County Council officials and the architect, J Blythe Richardson of Printing Office Street, Doncaster, loaded the gallery with 30 tons of sandbags, and delicate instruments registering the amounts of deflection of the beam.

A minute fraction of an inch of deflection was expected, but even this was not registered.

The cinema, which opened on Friday, August 1, 1924, made an attractive addition to the main street of Carcroft.

Almost opposite the Bullcroft Colliery gates, the cinema seated nearly 900 people.

The contractors were Ward & Crossley of Carcroft. It was 110ft by 60ft, with interior measurements of 90ft by 50ft by 31ft high.

There were attractive marble walls.

There were 200 seats in the balcony and 645 in the main hall.

There were plain rows of wooden seats in the cheap parts, the next best were upholstered in red leather, while the front seats and those on the balcony, for which 6d extra was paid, were tip-up style and upholstered in red plush.

Lighting was by electricity, although gas was laid on.

Initially, there was an orchestra of three but, it was claimed ‘if the house of entertainment becomes popular the number will be increased and variety turns introduced’.

n If any reader has pictures of Doncaster cinemas please call Peter Tuffrey on 07709 844109.