Three Towns Forum - Talk about Llandudno, Colwyn Bay & Conwy

The Local => Times Past => Topic started by: DaveR on September 14, 2010, 09:26:21 PM

Title: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on September 14, 2010, 09:26:21 PM
This is a piece I retrieved from the old forum, detailing the early history of some of Llandudno's Cinemas, which was written in around 1993...

THE CINEMAS OF LLANDUDNO

Llandudno, Caernarvon. (now Gwynedd) in North Wales, was until around 1849 a fishing and mining village. Around this date Edward Mostyn and Owen Williams set about the transformation into a resort, which has become the largest in Wales.

During the Victorian era, resorts such as this gained in popularity, and also gained much in the way of entertainment, usually also a musical and theatrical history.

Minstrel shows were held in 'Happy Valley' below the 700 feet high Great Orme. These were well established by 1870. A purpose built Opera House came in 1864, in the newly planned Mostyn Street, first named St.George's Hall (now HMV).

The Pier Pavilion (destroyed by fire 1994)was built to designs by Mr. B. Nelson in 1883, to provide an indoor venue for Concerts. This it seems was one early venue for some early film shows according to the Kine Year Books. listed in those of 1914 as being run by Mr S. J. Hughes. It seems these were discontinued by the 1914 - 18 War. Later Sir Henry Wood and Malcolm Sergent appeared here and after World War I! many other stars appeared here, Petula Clarke and The Beatles among them. It was a listed building and became derelict during the late 1980s.

The Grand Theatre, built in 1899 to the designs of G. A. Humphrys had over 1,000 seats, this place also hosted some small amount of early film, often as one act in a show, it too being listed in early Trade books.

After 1910, The Hippodrome of Mr Jules Riviere, also appeared as showing films, this was run it seems by a W.H. Taylor, this building a supposedly 'temporary' theatre became known as The Arcadia after World War 1 and the arrival of Mr. Will Catlin and his Follies. This 'temporary' building lasted until the late 1980's.

By 1914 at least the Princes Theatre, Mostyn Street, rebuild of the 1880 St Georges Hall by Architects Humphreys and Bradley was hosting film among other programming, by 1914 it was being run by Mr. E. Ellerslie.

In March 1914, a company known as Llandudno Cinema Co. Ltd. was registered with £100 in £1 shares. They built a hall behind existing premises in Mostyn Street, which in 1915 was known at first as The New Theatre. It quickly became The Picture House. In other records it appears as plain Cinema, Mostyn Street. Some entries list it as holding 900 folks. maybe it did, with forms for the front seats as elsewhere!

By the middle of the 1920's, Prince's Cinema Co. was listed as running the Princes Theatre with Manager C.F .Burton, mainly with films and variety, giving three shows daily at prices from 8d. up to 2/-. Programmes were changed twice weekly.

But now there was competition for this, and the Cinema (Picture House) in the form of the New Cinema in Gloddaeth Street, built around 1920, The Palladium. This had a stage some 30 feet in depth, and had been designed by Mr. Arthur Hewitt, Architect of Llandudno. It was built by Messrs. Thorpe & Co. It brought cinema and variety to this area.

The Grand, it seems was pure live shows. Now three venues gave Llandudno films, running into the 'talkie' era of 1929 - 30. The author has not gone into which was the first to install sound for features, many cinemas running one form or another of short films with some form of novelty sound much prior to this date.

The Cinema. Mostyn Street, though was soon leased to the up and growing circuit of Associated British Cinemas in 1931. This was renamed as Savoy, and fitted 'with R.C.A. sound system. The Grand Theatre, fitted a British Acoustic sound system around the same period, with by 1932, The Prince's Theatre and the Palladium both fitting the Western Electric system. The Grand Theatre was owned by this time by Art. Entertainments Ltd. and did I Believe show some films.

Further competition then arrived in 1934, in the form of Mr. Zach Brierley and family who were established in Llandudno as proprietors of Creams Tours (omnibus). They acquired a piece of land in Gloddaeth Street, once a vineyard belonging to Mr Jackson and built the huge edifice known as Winter Gardens. This contained a large Ballroom plus a Theatre/Cinema with a 40 foot deep stage, it was a sumptuous building with an Art-Deco interior. The Cinema contained a very nice sounding Christie Theatre Organ, of 3m 8 ranks, with the ranks divided in chambers either side of the proscenium, giving a marvellous Stereophonic effect, long before Stereo was the vogue. This building was again designed by Mr. Hewitt. The Winter Gardens opened in March 1935.

Now Llandudno had more entertainment houses than ever before. The New Prince's Theatre, with 773 or so seats, The Savoy with around 870 seats, and now soon to be given up by A.B.C. and controlled by the Palladium Company (from Mid-1936). The 1,500 seat Pier Pavilion, the 1,700 or so of the Winter Gardens, plus the Arcadia and Grand, with its 1,000 seats. This situation was set to run until the coming of War In 1939, except that In November 1936, The Odeon Cinema circuit of Oscar Deutsch took over the Winter Gardens, soon renaming it Odeon. Creams Tours still retaining the offices, which Mr Brierley had built on the Ground floor, where he ran the cinema as well in the early days.

As one of the places deemed to be safe from War-time bombing raids, Llandudno hosted many vital services, Including the British Broadcasting Corporations variety division, which took over the Grand Theatre. In 1941, Reginald Foort' s travelling Moller Theatre Organ, which had pre-war from 1938, appeared in many good theatres over the country, was brought here, in place of the B.B.C's own Compton organ which had been destroyed, in a raid on London. It was installed In April 1941, and broadcast many times.

It was removed in 1943 to Bangor. The Savoy Cinema was virtually destroyed by a serious fire, which occurred in June 1942. This kept it closed for the duration.

After the War, nothing was exactly as it had been prior to the commencement in 1939. There were many restrictions on building, rationing of materials etc. But In 1945, just as War was ending in Europe at least, a few holidaymakers began to visit again. There was now no outside Grand lighting allowed, and limited inside use in Theatre & cinemas, but the films were still there, the buildings were rather run down due to very little maintenance. It was in the 1950's when such was pursued. The Savoy rising from the ashes opening in August 1955, re-designed by Hewitt and Jones, with some 600 seats on one floor. North Western Entertainments now the owners of The Grand Theatre. Prices too were not the same. Those at the Grand being from 2/- up to 7/6d. At the Odeon the cheaper were 2/3d rising to 3/9d This In 1960. Cinemascope the cinemas answer to the challenge from television had come to stay, with it s huge wide screen. (This after certain cinemas had tried Three-dimensional films, where the audience had to wear special spectacles, plus other gimmicks. Now the Palladium had a screen 25 feet wide by 13 high, The Odeon a similar size, and the Savoy with a 4 foot wide screen. The Palladium and Savoy, charging 1/6d for the cheap seats up to 3/6d for the best in the house.

The 1960's brought more of the trouble, though from television, especially Winter months, also people who used to holiday here, sought their holidays in foreign climes, this brought loss of revenue to all places of entertainment. Bingo, the game of “Housey-Housey” by another name, came to the rescue in some cinemas.

At Llandudno the cinemas Odeon, Palladium and Savoy were sold to Hutchinson Leisure Group of Burnley. The Odeon being renamed Astra. The Astra often closing for Winter months. The Palladium… soon being divided into a Cinema upstairs, with Bingo below. This in the 1970's. H.Robinson Cleaver', was involved with the Arcadia, he had been Organist at the Astra, among others, after being a travelling circuit organist. The Prince's had quietly gone and later became supermarket. Soon both the Savoy and Astra were to be closed. By 1988 the Astras Christie Organ was removed to storage, for re-installation elsewhere. The Palladium remained now in other hands, after the death of Mr Hutchinson. It passed to Apollo Leisure, who intended to refurbish the building. This remains in 1993 as the only commercial cinema in the Town. The Savoy is a new shopping arcade. Re-building is taking place around the Arcadia area. The Astra gone, such a huge place too costly to run in these changing times. Mid-1993 too brought sad news, that the Christie Organ was destroyed when the storage building was demolished.

Thus ends to story of Llandudno's cinemas albeit brief, it may have more to add one day, when the development on the sea front is completed, who knows!
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on September 15, 2010, 02:41:30 AM
Some photo's of the cinema's that I remember - The Astra, The Palladium, and The Savoy.

Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on September 15, 2010, 02:47:26 AM
Another view of The Savoy
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on September 15, 2010, 08:35:21 AM
I've never seen any interior shots of either the Savoy or the Princes Cinema. Anything in your archive, Trojan?
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: wrex on September 15, 2010, 05:39:46 PM
 :'(  There used to be a cinema in venue cymru,well it said theres one on their website,must be the shortest run cinema in Llandudno's history. ;)
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on September 15, 2010, 06:28:40 PM
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I've never seen any interior shots of either the Savoy or the Princes Cinema. Anything in your archive, Trojan?

No nothing unfortunately.  :(
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on September 15, 2010, 06:45:31 PM
Something might turn up one day.  ££$

As I recall, the interior of the Savoy was nothing special, quite plain in fact. I saw Ghostbusters there in 1984. The Astra I remember as a vast, cavernous place - saw Star Wars there in 1977. And the Palladium, I think i saw either The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi there, along with Saving Private Ryan a year or two before it closed.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Hugo on October 08, 2010, 10:50:39 PM
If you have a close look at Trojan's photo of the Savoy Cinema, on the extreme right you will see a door where a lady is standing.  This door was an emergency exit door which was also within the Gents toilets.
What happened when we were lads was that one of us would pay to go in. Once inside they would turn right and go straight into the Gents where they would then open the emergency doors and let about a dozen friends come in!
 ;)
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on October 09, 2010, 06:25:51 AM
We used to do something similar at the Palladium, however, we used to open the fire exit doors on George Street.  L0L
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Llechwedd on October 12, 2010, 12:52:06 PM
Can't remember when the Princes closed but I saw War and Peace there with I thin Rod Steiger as Napoleon?  c.1956.... I was very young. ???
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on October 12, 2010, 09:30:42 PM
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Can't remember when the Princes closed but I saw War and Peace there with I thin Rod Steiger as Napoleon?  c.1956.... I was very young. ???
From my blog:

"By the 1920s, its glory days as a theatre were long over and it had become a cinema called the New Princes Theatre.

It finally closed sometime in the 1960s, when the ground floor frontage was ripped out and converted to a shop, the Maypole. Later, it became a Liptons supermarket (with a cafe on the first floor), then FarmFoods, then Lo-Cost. Finally, in 2004, the building was refurbished and a more sympathetic shopfront added when it became a branch of the HMV music retailer.

You can still see a domed ceiling through the first floor windows, if you look carefully. And I recall a member on the Llandudno forum saying that he once came across the old Princes Theatre sign dumped in a quarry up by Nant Y Gamar woods!"


St. George's Hall:
(http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_B6u8y-6WLnc/SvSO45TFIcI/AAAAAAAAAaQ/hHOPVtNHNjI/s400/stgeorgeshall.jpg)

(http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3027/4038026920_073049b39e_z.jpg?zz=1) (http://www.flickr.com/photos/davellandudno/4038026920/)
Princes Theatre - Then & Now (http://www.flickr.com/photos/davellandudno/4038026920/) by SnakeCorp (http://www.flickr.com/people/davellandudno/), on Flickr
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Ian on October 13, 2010, 08:16:38 AM
The best cinema in the area was the West End Colwyn Bay cinema, after the ground floor had been converted to a Bingo hall and the screen had been moved so it was not that far in front of the old balcony area. The result was raked seating, which anticipated the US cinema model in the '90s,  superb screen size vis a vis audience positioning and full dolby surround sound.  However, there was more money in selling it off for redevelopment - which in Colwyn Bay in the '90s meant more apartments for the retired.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on October 13, 2010, 09:32:09 PM
The Astra was a great cinema (I remember watching The Empire Strikes Back there) and still massive even after the Stalls had been partitioned off for 'Surewin Bingo'.

Some photos from 1984...

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And some photos from its demolition in (I think) 1987:

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..and an ddvert for the Astra complex:

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Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Ian on October 14, 2010, 07:43:24 AM
Last few times I went there the audience was minute. I suppose the running costs eventually became too much. Pity though;  it might have become Wales' only Imax screen.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on October 14, 2010, 08:37:42 AM
If they had held on, they would have been fine. 1984 was the nadir of cinema admissions in the UK, with 54 million admissions. The average now is about 162m admissions.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on October 24, 2010, 09:16:14 PM
Built in 1880 as St Georges Hall and later the New Princes Cinema, it is now HMV:

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Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Fester on October 25, 2010, 01:28:26 AM
Surewin Bingo?
What a brilliant name for a gambling business!!

Its like BetFair which is massive these days, ... its anything but FAIR...

I think I shall open a bookies called You'llWin,  or Deffo-Win  or  U'll B Rich  ....   

Should be illegal really.

Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on October 25, 2010, 08:46:55 PM
A slide from the 1960s, that shows the sheer size of the Astra complex (left of picture). Originally built as the Winter Gardens and incorporated an Odeon Cinema for many years:

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Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on October 25, 2010, 10:14:20 PM
It certainly was a large building, by Llandudno standards.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on October 25, 2010, 10:20:43 PM
We used to go to Saturday morning pictures at the Astra, where they would show cartoons. When the theme tunes came up on the screen, all the children would rattle their hinged cinema seats up and down noisily whilst cheering at the same time.

Merrie Melodies & Looney Tunes - Opening themes. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jTHNBKjMBU#)
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on March 20, 2011, 08:55:53 AM
Interior of the Palladium Cinema. I don't remember it looking quite so tatty!

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Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on March 20, 2011, 05:26:02 PM
Must have been not long before it closed down.

Look at those cob-webs!  :o
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on May 08, 2011, 02:54:14 AM
Came across this Pathe newsreel filmed at the Palladium in 1952, which was hosting the premiere of the film Castle in the Air.

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=29938 (http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=29938)
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Ian on May 08, 2011, 08:23:35 AM
That's a superb site...
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: RichieC on May 27, 2011, 11:03:51 AM
In compliment to Dave R's photograph at post no. 12, here (unless there is a previous copy somewhere else already) is the then brand-new Odeon Colwyn Bay on its opening day in 1936. The image is reproduced on a film and cinema historian's site "Cinema Treasures" of which I have been a member for some years now, whereby readers can find much of the history of the beginnings of this theatre-and others locally. The photograph belongs to the stupendous catalogueof the original nationwide Odeon Theatres' staff photographer John Maltby, of whom more details are available, who celebrated the opening of each one with a comprehensive portfolio when the opening dates occurred.

Link is here: www.cinematreasures.org/theater/35192 (http://www.cinematreasures.org/theater/35192)

In addition, which is not always possible on Cinema Treasures I'm including a replica of the poster of the the opening night film "The Ghost Goes West" to give forumers a feel of the cinema-going experience at that time and the ambience that as a result Colwyn Bay had with its partner cinema-chain places in the country. (All image source details available).

MO

Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on May 27, 2011, 11:21:35 AM
 *&(

I'm a member of the Cinema Treasures site as well, their photo uploading feature has been unavilable for years. Great website, though.  $good$
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on January 06, 2012, 10:02:03 PM
Programme from 'The Cinema', Mostyn Street, Llandudno in 1924. It did not become known as the Savoy for many years later.

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Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on June 10, 2013, 01:40:06 PM
Page 2.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on June 10, 2013, 01:45:05 PM
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It did not become known as the Savoy for many years later.
1932, to be precise.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on June 12, 2013, 05:23:57 PM
This program from 1941 indicates the facility was busy during the war.

It's the first time I've seen the building in that architectural state. 
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: DaveR on June 12, 2013, 06:02:32 PM
That's actually the Leicester Square Odeon, they must have used it as the generic Odeon illustration for all of their cinemas.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Trojan on June 14, 2013, 08:04:44 PM
 :laugh: Should have used that as a quiz question.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: phil on August 18, 2013, 10:25:47 AM
just to add a bit of trivia my mother used to tell me when i was a kid about when she worked in the Cosy Cinema in Colwyn Bay, and i used to trot along to the Rhos Playhouse (fleapit) on a Saturday Morning to watch episodes of Flash Gordon etc, I remember also seeing the film The Longships (i think it was called)  there. I also remember standing outside the Savoy in Llandudno with my mate trying to get an  adult to take us in with them to watch Lawrence of Arabia an A category film.

Former Cosy Cinema, 6 Conway Road, Colwyn Bay

This is the site of the first chapel in Colwyn Bay, Capel Cyntaf. The rear wall of the chapel can still be seen, if you walk along the back alley between Penrhyn Road and Station Road.

When the Welsh community built their new chapel, Engedi, in Woodland Road West, the renowned local architect Sydney Colwyn Foulkes was commissioned (c.1925) to design a building with a small, bijou cinema on the ground floor. The building included offices above, which became his own office. His secretary, Audrey Lee, used to listen to the film being shown below her office while she typed.

The three-row balcony can still be seen inside the present hardware store. The screen was suspended on the inside of the front wall, so that as you entered the cinema you looked directly at the audience. The cinema closed in the late 1950s and has been a shop ever since. The current occupier, Matthews & Son Hardware, is a traditional ironmongers’ shop famous locally for holding what seems an impossibly comprehensive stock for such a small building.

What you could watch at the Cosy Cinema:

During the Second World War, in August 1940, the film being shown was Night Train to Munich, starring Rex Harrison and Margaret Lockwood. Later in the same month it was Arouse and Beware, starring Wallace Beery and Dolores Del Rio.
Title: Re: Cinemas of Llandudno
Post by: Cambrian on August 18, 2013, 05:44:46 PM
Phil - I think the Cosy became a branch of Telefusion after it ceased to be a cinema.  I can remember someone pointing out where the screen used to be as you describe.