Brief History of Chester Cinemas

Brief History of Chester Cinemas

This is an article on the history of Chester’s cinemas. I myself worked in the Classic Chester in the projection box. Chester’s first full time cinema hall was the upper floor of what had been the Corn Exchange on Eastgate Street. This opened in 1909 and was leased to a Mr and Mrs Will Hunter. For a while it was known as the Corn Exchange cinema before becoming the Picturedrome. It closed in 1924. The Glynn Picture Hall opened in 1911 in Foregate Street. This stayed a silent cinema, not installing sound. This little cinema closed in 1931 and was at that time run by Gaumont British.

The Music Hall in St Werberg and Northgate Street ran films on a full time basis from 1915, opening with The Corsican Brothers. It was known as Music Hall Pictures until 1921; it was then altered and the screen was changed from the St Werberg side to the Northgate. It became the Music Hall, opening in November 1921 with Charles Chaplin in The Kid. It was the home of Chester’s first Talkie, The Singing Fool in 1929. It closed in 1961.

The Pat Collins Cinema De Luxe opened in 1921 on Brook Street, becoming the Majestic in 1926. In 1956 it closed and became the Majestic ballroom. It was eyes down in 1965 when bingo took the place of dancing. Bingo was transferred to the former Gaumont after the auditorium of the Majestic was demolished for road widening.

The Park cinema in Saltney, a suburb of Chester was a one level hall and opened in 1923, closing in 1959 with the Japaneese war film The Camp on Blood Island.

1931 saw the magnificent Gaumont open on Brook Street. This housed a Compton organ and live shows were often staged. It housed a cafe where cinemagoers and non cinemagoers could enjoy a meal and drink. Films ceased in 1961 and it became a Ten Pin Bowling establishment. In 1970 bingo was the name of the game.

The art deco Odeon was opened in October 1936 and in attendance was film star Douglas Fairbanks junior. In 1976 it was converted to three screens and five in 1991. The Odeon closed in June 2007.

The Tatler Foregate Street, later becoming the Classic opened in December 1936. It started as a news and cartoon cinema. In December 1937 it ran its first feature called It Happened One Night, directed by Frank Capra. This was screened five times a day. In December 1970 it closed its doors and was demolished along with several other buildings to make room for a C&A store, which became a Woolworths and is now Primark.

The last super cinema to be built in Chester was the ABC Regal in Foregate Street. It was opened by the Mayor Robert Matthewson in October 1937. Eventually it became just ABC. It was taken over by EMI in 1969 and converted to a twin cinema in 1980. The Cannon group took it over in 1987 and the cinema closed in 1990. Today the building is a Primark store. A new multiplex opened on 18th December 1990 on a shopping complex in the Sealand Road area. In 2013 that was demolished and an Asda store now stands on the site.

I have written numerous articles on the history of cinemas for a number of publications. I have just completed with a couple of friends an in-depth book on the history of Chester cinemas and theatres. It will be published by The Cinema Theatre Association either later this year, or next when the CTA is fifty years old.

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