Retro: Sheffield’s lost cinemas

Chapeltown cinema
Chapeltown cinema
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Towards the end of the 19th century the Lumière brothers introduced the cinématographe, which allowed events, however important or mundane, to be recorded on film and then projected through the same device on to a large screen for viewing by an audience.

In early 1896 the apparatus arrived in England for a public show in London. The cinématographe was then transported around the country, with one of the cities hosting a demonstration being Sheffield on June 22, 1896 at the Empire Palace Theatre.

The short scenes displayed for the public included a busy London street and a view of the land at the coast.

A show was again staged in September and soon a number of Sheffield’s theatres were following suit and presenting similar entertainment alongside variety performances. Moving pictures continued to be seen in this setting, in addition to being displayed in converted shops and travelling tents, while the new technology was developed.

A dedicated cinema was not opened in Sheffield until August 1, 1910 as a result of the Cinematograph Act 1909.

The Act stated that any place showing films to the public had to have anti-fire measures to prevent the highly sensitive film stock from igniting, which left the numerous places showing ‘movies’ unable to continue in the business.

The Sheffield Picture Palace in Union Street was the first cinema and signalled the start of a ‘boom’ period in cinema construction around the city. Only five years later around 30 venues were offering moving picture shows for public viewing.

Here are some dates and interesting facts about some former Sheffield district movie houses to bring back happy memories for all those lucky enough to remember cinema’s golden age.

Arbourthorne, Carlton Cinema, Eastern Avenue

The Carlton Cinema opened on August 15, 1938 and seated 1,222, with 351 in the balcony. It was designed by Fowler & Marshall and built by W G Robinson Ltd for the owners Sheffield & District Cinematograph Theatres Ltd.

The Carlton opened with King Solomon’s Mines and was allegedly the first all-concrete cinema, displaying a rather bland, unpleasing frontage. The Sheffield Telegraph reported that it was capable of withstanding the effect of a medium-sized bomb!

Albert Burrows was the manager throughout the cinema’s lifespan and it never opened on Sundays.

Surviving a mere 21 years, the Carlton closed on Saturday, February 7, 1959 with King Creole and after being adapted for commercial use was eventually demolished. The photograph was taken on February 26, 1993.

Heeley, Coliseum, London Road

The Coliseum, with a slim white faience frontage, was opened by Heeley Coliseum Ltd on October 27, 1913. Designed by W H Lancashire & Sons, the auditorium seated around 600. Sound came with Whoopee on August 3, 1931. Four years later it was redeveloped by George Longden & Sons Ltd, seating increased in the balcony, and a new proscenium added in 1939.

Films in Cinemascope started in May 1956. The Coliseum closed on January 14, 1961 after showing The Three Musketeers and was demolished.

Heeley Green Picture House

Built with a half-timbered gable frontage by M J Gleeson, the Heeley Green Picture House opened on Easter Monday, April 5, 1920. From April 1929 its main usage was for vaudeville and variety, seating in stalls and circle levels around 1,000, becoming known as the Heeley Green Theatre. It came back into use as a cinema from May 1938.

The premises closed on March 7, 1959, only to reopen again on April 3, 1961 as the Tudor Cinema. Closure came once more on July 14, 1962 and the building was used thereafter for bingo and snooker until it was badly damaged by fire in June 2004.

Heeley Electric Palace

Owned at the outset by Heeley Electric Palace Ltd, the cinema was designed by A E King and built by noted local contractor George Longden & Son Ltd.

Executed in a late Renaissance style and featuring white cement stucco, the Palace opened on August Bank Holiday Monday, August 7, 1911. Seating 1,450 including 350 in the balcony, the venue initially had its own orchestra but did not include variety ‘turns’.

Conversion to ‘talkies’ occurred in 1930, the first film being Broadway Melody, shown on March 31. The Star Group took control from January 20, 1955 and thereafter there was a flirtation with bingo until the final films were shown on June 22, 1965.

Then the building accommodated a skateboard rink and a furniture warehouse, then was empty for a period before meeting the demolition men in 1981.

Hillsborough, Kinema House, Crookes Place (later Proctor Place)

The Kinema House, which was designed by Benton & Roberts, opened in November 1912 with seating for around 850 including 150 in the balcony. This was increased to around 1,150 following alterations in 1920.

The first talkie was shown on December 2, 1929 – Broadway Melody.

Architects Hadfield & Caukwell considerably altered both the exterior and interior of the building in 1935, including increasing the seating to about 1,200.

Bomb damage caused the cinema to close between December 1940 and October 1941. The final film at the Kinema House was on Saturday July 23, 1966 and then the building was demolished.

Intake, The Rex Cinema, Mansfield Road/Hollybank Road junction

Largely faced with rustic bricks and featuring a blue tiled tower, the Rex cinema was designed by Hadfield & Cawkwell and opened on July 24, 1939.

Seating 1,350, it was owned and managed by Miss Dorothy Ward and opened with Men with Wings.

Rose Marie was the first Cinemascope film shown in March 1955. Closure came on December 23, 1982 with Chariots of Fire and Gregory’s Girl. The building was demolished a year later.

Star Picture House

Building of the Star Picture House for owners Premier Pictures Ltd began before the First World War but was not completed until December 1915, the first screening being presented on the 23rd.

The film shown was Marguerite Navarre and customers were allowed in free of charge to the first performance. The building boasted a domed and colonnaded tower along with imitation stone dressings to the windows, doors and pilasters.

Sound was installed on December 23, 1929 and the premises formed part of the J F Emery circuit during the 1930s. The building was damaged during the Second World War and was forced to close for a while.

The Star Group took control in 1955 and the last films were screened on Wednesday, January 17, 1962. Bingo subsequently took root until closure 1984; demolition then followed in October 1986.

Stocksbridge Palace, Manchester Road

Opening on May 12, 1921 with Kismet, the Stocksbridge Palace seated around 1,000 including 300 in the circle. The first talkie shown there was Let us be Gay on August 4, 1931.

At one time variety acts appeared at the Palace and Reginald Dixon was a former resident musician. The Palace was taken over by the Star Group in 1942,

Cinemascope was introduced in November 1955 and a flirtation with bingo sessions on certain days started from 1962.

Closure came on July 23, 1966 and thereafter the building became a bingo hall.

Upperthorpe, The Oxford Picture Palace, Addy Street

The Oxford Picture Palace was opened in a converted Unitarian chapel on December 15, 1913. The design work was carried out by Hickton & Farmer and the cinema seated around 900.

In 1920 the Oxford became part of Heeley & Amalgamated Cinemas and was taken over by the Star Group in January 1955.

The Oxford survived until August 15, 1964; the final films were Two Way Stretch and I’m Alright Jack. Later, the building was demolished.

Woodseats Palace, Chesterfield Road

Opening on Monday September 4, 1911, the Woodseats Palace was designed and built by W and A Forsdike Ltd and featured a white glazed frontage incorporating two domes.

Seating a mere 550, the Palace also had a small stage and the opening programme included seven short films.

A balcony incorporated in 1920 added height to the building and increased the seating by another 250. A Western Electric sound system was installed in the 1930s.

By January 1955, the Palace had been absorbed by the Star Group and Cinemascope was introduced shortly afterwards.

The final films shown on September 24, 1961 were Slaughter on 10th Avenue and Taming Suttons Girl.

Later, the building was converted to a store and occupied by Fine Fare, Kwik Save, Alldays and a Weatherspoon’s pub called the Palace.