The Palace Cinema, Warrington

The Palace, Friars Gate, Warrington Cheshire was built in 1907 and opened as The Palace Hippodrome theatre on 23rd September 1907. It was part of the MacNaughton Vaudeville circuit. It opened its doors to John Tiller’s High Jinks company. Films became part of the show in the early years. The building was designed by George F. Ward and two balconies were installed with a box on each side of the proscenium with Barogue style plasterwork. The upper balcony or gallery was reached from a side door outside the building.

In early 1931 the theatre was converted into the Palace cinema, opening with Ben Lyon in Hell’s Angels. The cinema closed in 1957 when the owners came out of the business. The hall remained shut for three years before being taken over by the Hutchinson circuit in 1960. The first offering was the musical Oklahoma. The cinema had a short life, only remaining open for four years and closing on the 7th November 1964 with the black and white cinemascope film The Camp on Blood Island with The Revenge of Frankenstein as the second feature. During its cinema period the gallery section was closed to the public.

The Palace ran films that were several years old and back in 1964 was managed by a Mr Makin. As it had been a theatre there were pillars that could affect viewing. Secondary lighting, the lighting used if there is a mains failure, was gas and would be lit just before the show by the doorman. Back in 1964 the chief projectionist was a Mr Joe Slevin. The relief operator was a Mr Arnold Bates, who was a postman by day. He would go in a couple of nights a week to relieve Joe. The projectors were Feidi and the sound equipment was RCA. The light source was provided by two Peerless carbon arcs. Joe would mend televisions between reels and a stove in the box was used to heat pies for the hardworking projectionists. To get to the projection box you had to go through the side door outside that went to the gallery. There were a lot of steps to climb and the assistant projectionist had to go up and down them twice a day to get a jug of tea. The box was only small but doors at the back opened on to a small balcony allowing the operators fresh air and good views of Warrington.

Films were usually screened on Sunday for one day only, a couple of features on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and another couple on Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

After the cinema’s closure it became a Surewin Bingo club, also run by the Hutchinson circuit. The bingo was opened by Peter Adamson, who was a Coronation Street star. The building later became an Apollo bingo club, again run by Hutchinson, Brannigans nightclub and a Showbar Nightclub.

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