The Old Cinemas Of Sheffield
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Cinemas Introduction

This Page Updated 3 June 2004

MILESTONES OF CINEMA
1. 1885 Moving outlines First Demonstrated by Louis Le Prince, Washington Heights USA

2. 1895 The first public viewing of moving pictures, Hotel Scribe, Paris France
by the Lumiere Brothers

3. 1923 Musical sound with film first demonstrated by Dr Lee de Forest New York USA

4. 1926 Talking movies first demonstrated by Warner Bros. New York USA

5. 1928 First moving picture with sound shown " The Lights Of New York "
at The Strand, New York, USA

Introduction
     Sheffield had it's first introduction to cinematography in 1896, when the Lumiere brothers, Who invented the cinematograph in 1895, demonstrated in the new Empire theatre, Charles Street. ( Now Totally Redeveloped and a housing office next to the former Sugg Sports ). Thereafter regular short films were shown in existing theatres. These films were often pictures of motor traffic in The Strand, football matches, and numerous other topics of interest. They had no music or sound. But in those days many people had never been more than 20 miles from home, and pictures of London and Paris were of great interest. The films were presented between other live variety acts, which were seen in theatreland at the time.
     Fifteen years on, in 1910 the first purpose built picture house in sheffield was Sheffield Picture Palace.
Although other theatres, by this time, were being used more and more, the movie wasn't the pure art form that it is now, and the pictures were accompanied by music played, when appropriate by live pianist. 

In the year 1920, there were 46 cinemas, but the next two decades saw a slower amount of cinema growth, up until the peak in 1940, when 58 cinemas were open at once. At this point every district of Sheffield had at least one Cinema, many had two or three. 

This notice on the right >>--->
Was published in a Sheffield Corporation Tramways & Motors rambling guide booklet in the 1920s. It was sent in by Amere and gratefully recieved.

 

 

 

Over the next five years, 1940 - 1945, world war 2 was raging, and Sheffield was bombed quite heavily, and lost many buildings, the cinema count went down to 56.

Nationally at this point in the late forties, there were so many cinemas that 10% of the UK population could visit the Cinema at the same time.
     In the 1950's, the country was getting back on it's feet after the war, money started getting less tight and people started getting televisions in their homes, especially for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952. This had the obvious knock on effect for the cinema, the decline of the big old cinemas started in the whole country. Many were converted into bingo halls and some were knocked down.

     Of the many cinemas that Sheffield has seen coming and going over the last century. There have been very large ones like The Gaumont ( Formally The Regent ) in Barkers Pool, in the town centre, which had a massive 2,300 seats and a truly massive wide screen. And tiny ones like The High Green Picture Palace which had only 320.
     Some didn't last long at all, The Olympia Electric Palace on Bramhall Lane, opened in September 1911 to show a film of a heavyweight championship fight, and closed only three weeks later! It reopened as a roller skating rink. I've no idea which part of Bramhall Lane it stood on .

     Some of the biggest ones were lavishly decorated, the Gaumont had, check this out :-

  1. A Marble Staircase
  2. A Cut Glass Candelabra
  3. A Georgian Tea Room
  4. Lounges With Frescoes Of Moonlit Italian Gardens
  5. A 25 Piece Uniformed Orchestra
  6. A good sized stage for live productions
  7. A number of dressing rooms
  8. A Wurlitzer organ
  9. 5000 concealed electric bulbs in the huge auditorium

In Sheffield, cinemas died very quickly between 1955 - 1970 when It became out of fashion to go to the flicks, and television became the entertainment medium for the masses. A few survived, nearly intact as Bingo Halls, Supermarkets and Snooker Halls. Many were left to rot as it was not economic to remain open, and others continued to ply their trade as minority, foreign or dirty film cinemas.

 

 

In 1925 there were 66 cinemas listed as operating in sheffield area ( Sheffield, Rotherham, Dronfield ) as Cinematograph Halls. 

In 1948 there were 65 cinemas listed as operating in sheffield area ( Sheffield, Rotherham, Dronfield ) as Cinemas.  

    In 1969 there were still 18 cinemas in the last throws of normal operation. Here Is a list obtained from a directory of the time :-
Abbeydale Picture House Abbeydale Road
A B C cinema Angel Street
Classic Cinema Fitzalan Square
Darnall Picture Palace Staniforth Road
Essoldo Barnsley Road
The Gaumont Barker's Pool
Greystones Picture Palace Ecclesall Road
High Green Cinema Thompson Hill
Hillsbro' Park Cinema Middlewood Road
Manor Picture House City Road
Odeon Theatre Flat Street
Page Hall Cinema Idsworth Road
The Palace Union Street
The Pavillion Attercliffe Common
The Plaza Picture House Richmond Road
Rex Cinema Mansfield Road
Ritz Picture House Southey Green Road
Studio 7 Wicker

     In the early 1980's, the main cinemas for seeing the regular films, were all in the town centre. They were as follows :-

A B C cinema Angel Street
Classic Cinema Fitzalan Square
The Gaumont Barker's Pool
Studio 7 Wicker

Non of them exist in 2000, they all fell in the second blow to the cinema - The Video Cassette. The ABC and Gaumont were very large and in the late 1980's were shut and demolished, the Classic was a smaller cinema and that burned down in a fire which took the cinema and an electrical shop next door, Cinema has entered the Multiplex age with the following :-
Showroom Cinema, Paternoster Row
Odeon Cinema,
Arundel Gate
UCI 10 Cinemas,
Crystal Peaks
Virgin Cinemas
, at Valley Centertainment, Broughton Lane
Warner Village Cinemas, at Meadowhall Shopping Centre

 

In 2007 the Abbeydale is undergoing a resergence as a cherished old building, showing occasional films, plays, events and concerts, The Showroom thrives as a famous multiscreen independant cinema and the commercial cinemas in sheffield are taken care of by the 3 main multiplexes :-
Cineworld, at Valley Centertainment, Broughton Lane
Odeon Cinema Arundel Gate
Showroom Cinema, Paternoster Row
Vue Cinemas, at Meadowhall Shopping Centre

The ABC Cinema, Angel Street
     This was the last large screen cinema that was built in Sheffield. Initially it had one large screen in the main auditorium and the concourse restaurant, upstairs, which was later converted into a smaller screen. It was built in 1961 and closed in 1989, and then demolished soon after to make way for a new retail development, which has still not been built 10 years on! and to add insult to injury is still an unmade temporory pay and display car park.
     When it was opened in 1961 it was claimed to be the most modern cinema in Britain. Featuring the most up to date projection and sound equipment, and a very large 60 foot screen, which was one of the largest in the country.
The 1300 seats were laid out in a Stadium plan, where the circle was slightly raised from the stalls, with a thick dark wall between, instead of the more conventional balcony.
The old style cinemas were designed as little palaces, for the local people of the town to experience a little opulence and luxury.
 Some of them had an organ, often on a lift which raised out of the platform while the organist played, and then disappeared again as the film started.
 There was almost always a tower in one corner, towering above the building, like a domed church steeple. This was because these were before the days of air conditioning, and the only efficient way of keeping the air fresh was to draw it through with a chimney like structure on the roof, often the tower was equipped with a fan to make the process more urgent.
 Because the auditorium had to be shaped like a wedge, so that the seats could slope upward to afford a good view of the screen, there was always lots of other space in the building. This was often filled with a Cafe, Tea Lounge or Restaurant, and there was always refreshment and sweet stalls on the way to the seats.
 Being a very large building, the basement was often used as a Ballroom, Billiards / Snooker Hall, Or Club. This had the advantage of a second income, and building a membership, which could be enticed into the Cinema to see films at a cheap rate during slack times.
 The films in the past used to be shown with a newsreel or short film first, then a break while they changed the reel, where they would invite you to go to the lobby for refreshments. ( another money - making ploy ! ) And the usherettes would wear little sweet trays and go around the people who had remained in their seats, with ice creams, drinks and sweets.
More Recently

In the late 1980s a resurgence of cinema was underway with the advent of the multiplex. People were now bored of watching their VHS video films at home, and started to hanker for a big screen once again. But they were interested in more choice, and what was on offer was the multiplex. The old movie theatres with their frivolous frescos and niches had gone and, the modern clean lines of the purpose built facility, with five or seven smaller screens were here.
     The Gaumont had been demolished in 1985 and replaced with the Odeon, which was an ultra - modern glass and steel monstrosity, with three screens. This remained open until 1994, and then remained unoccupied until now, where it is currently being redeveloped inside as a nightclub venue called Kingdom which is due to open in spring 2000.
     Crystal Peaks was built, and the UCI Crystal Peaks, with it's ten screens, became extremely popular. You still see scruffy old car stickers on cars from about 1990, proudly declaring " did I See You At ICU ? ".
     Meadowhall Shopping And Entertainment centre, built the shopping centre in 1989 - 1990, but the area earmarked for the Meadowhall version of Disney Land, between Meadowhall Way and Weedon Street is still lying empty. Within the shopping complex though, is the Warner Village Cinemas with 11 screens.

The Showroom, in pond street, opposite the bus station was a grotty cinema in the area beneath the Fiesta nightclub, and amidst the multi - story car park. This area was developed in the early seventies, but the showroom closed in 1992. It had spent many years as a seedy sex film cinema for the dirty mac brigade. It had three screens

Meanwhile in town, the ABC has been pulled down, and the Anvil has turned into a Curry House, and the final twist to townside cinematics is the Odeon on the old Gaumont site closed down.


Today In Sheffield

The old Fiesta nightclub, after a few years as a casino, opened as the Odeon 7 cinema, Arundel Gate. It had 7 screens. Then they took over the Fiesta or Showroom cinema in the basement, around 1993 which was accessible from the Pond Street side, at the top of a concrete spiral staircase, and escalator which was also the back entrance to the multi - story car park, and was strewn with litter and crisp packets.
     With the basement cinema in hand the Odeon now has 10 screens. The foyer area has a soft drinks and snacks counter, where you can purchase coke and popcorn, and loads of other stuff. There's a ticket office, next to some posters with all the current films, which are on offer. And there's a bar area with a pool table.

The Showroom cinema on Paternoster Row, shows special interest films, carrying on where the Anvil left off. It has 4 screens, and shows independent, art house and foreign language films in preference to hollywood blockbusters.
The Smallest screen, 1 has 83 seats, 2 has 110 seats, 3 has 178 seats and screen 4, 282 seats. It opened in 1995 in the old Kennings building, in 1998 the third and fourth screens opened and the Showroom became the Largest Independent Cinema outside London.

The old Sheaf Market Hall is about to be redeveloped as a warner village, 12 screen multiplex cinema, with over 2000 seats!

Virgin Megaplex, is a multiplex cinema with one massive screen in Don Valley. It has 20 Screens.

The Warner Village Cinema, at the Oasis, Meadowhall, has plenty of films to see on it's 11 Screens.

The UCI Cinema complex at Crystal Peeks has 11 Screens and all the latest releases.

If all these cinemas remain open at once then there will be 68 Screens, that's the most screens ever in the sheffield area.

Cinema in Sheffield is alive and well


Current Cinema Websites
Odeon - www.odeon.co.uk
Showroom - www.showroom.org.uk
Warner Village Cinemas - www.warnervillage.co.uk
Virgin Cinemas www.virgin.net/cinema/filmfinder/
U. C. I. Cinemas www.uci-cinemas.co.uk/uci.html

[ Sheffield Cinema Location Chart ] [ Cinematic Jargon Explanation Section ]
 [ Bibliography ]

Thanks To Pauline T, Mark S, Brian Brady in Canada, Joanne & Scott, Ade K and Foxi Lady
For Help With This Section
The Old Cinemas Of Sheffield

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