New Picture Palace/Whitehall Theatre|
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Building and Opening
The original New Picture Palace opened on Saturday 11th February 1911 in the Masonic Buildings (Freemason's Hall) in High Street (near Wellgate) with Councillor H. Powell Clough as the Lessee and F. Wiltshear as its general manager. The venture lasted a decade and closed on Saturday 25th September 1920 for an extensive refurbishment.
It then reopened as the Whitehall on Thursday 2nd December 1920 with circa 900 seats and became very popular. The building also housed a café, formal dining room and gentlemens smoke room on the ground floor. The cinema had its own orchestra to accompany films.
Gutted by Fire
In the early hours of Friday 25th February 1921 the Whitehall cinema auditorium was gutted by a huge blaze believed to have started near the screen or orchestra pit. The remainder of the building suffered smoke and water damage.
After almost two years the building and cinema were rebuilt to the design of local architect James Totty and reopened on Monday 7th January 1924.
A wide staircase led to a huge entrance hall. The new auditorium with 800 seats in stalls and circle had its walls and ceiling panelled in cream with cyan and gold reliefs whilst the proscenium curtains were in "peacock blue velvet trimmed with gold appliqué" together with blue velvet upholstered seats set on a grey pile carpet.
The Whitehall Orchestra, who lost most of their instruments in the fire, was reformed under the direction of Cyril Wilkinson. The manager was now George W. Knapton followed by Cyril J. Wilson.
From Monday 29th August 1927 the Whitehall came under the control of Cinema (Rotherham) and Electra Ltd who at that time also controlled the Cinema House and Royal Picture House.
Horace W. Routledge and W.F. Sykes were to follow as managers.
The first 'talkie', or rather part-talkie, film to be shown from Friday 19th April 1929 was . . .
"The Jazz Singer" - 1927 USA B/W part sound 88mins.
(Vitaphone sound-on-disc version)
Starring Al Jolson May McAvoy and Warner Oland.
From 1930 the Western Electric sound system was installed.
Union Cinemas/ABC Control
The Whitehall came under the control of Union Cinemas Ltd in 1938 and later managed by Associated British Cinemas with a reduced seating capacity (in 1950) of 771.
A CinemaScope screen was installed and opened on Monday 9th May 1955 with . . .
"Drum Beat" - 1954 USA Warnercolor 111mins.
Starring Alan Ladd, Audrey Dalton and Charles Bronson.
The Whitehall closed on Saturday 25th June 1960 with the all-British films . . .
"The Angry Silence" - 1960 UK B/W 95mins.
Starring Richard Attenborough, Pier Angeli and Michael Craig.
"Jackpot" - 1960 UK B/W 71mins.
Starring William Hartnell, Betty McDowell and Eddie Byrne.
Within months, and just short of reaching its half-century, the entire building was demolished after being sold to developers for circa 100,000 GBP.
Copyright ©1983/2004, Colin Sutton.
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.
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