13 July 2010

The Last Picture Show.

The old cinema is of course a dying breed, growing up making trips to the local cinema/theatre/picture house is pretty much no more. The old school picture house has been replaced by the modern out of town multiplex, progress and moving with the time's it might be, but organs which appear from beneath the floor and stopping a film half way through for a Cornetto is no bad thing, you look at old photos and archive stills from the past, and it paints a picture to me, of a much better place, a thriving community brought together by film and theatre, and one which is depressingly becoming no more. I recently saw a website, which I'll come to later, that prompted me to reminisce about my own fare town's places, a town which had several. The grand old Davenport Theatre a lovely old building with both a Major and Minor auditorium that should have been listed or protected, instead it was demolished for the fucking close by private grammar school's overflow car park, so twats could park their Chelsea tractors when picking up Little Lord Fuckstick. There are many memories of film going at this place for me, the two tiered major, the smaller minor, big red curtains parting for the forthcoming attractions, the cheesy P, P, P, Pearl and Dean ditty before each film, intermissions as a lady walks up in front of the screen with a load of ice cream hanging off her shoulders, this was our local, this was our manor, from the Back to the Future films, the epic Empire of the Sun, the magic of E.T. to the spirit of Christmas with a kid left at home besieged by burglars in Home Alone and 'coming of age' watching shite older kids films without parental guidance, to doing the general annoying loud little twats on the back row thing during one of the Beverly Hills Cop sequels. I'd truly love to say I also put my willy in a popcorn box to impress/startle a young date, but that would be a proper fib. Not just the movies, plays and pantos were also staged here, not to mention the list of stars who'd treaded the boards there in the Christmas pantomimes and performed live acts, stars such as Jimmy Cricket, 'Shane' from Neighbours, and of course the likes of Rod Hull, Bernard Manning, Steve Coogan , Smith and Jones. Never even mind the free gig by the Christian rock band The Worldwide Message Tribe, which was put on for most of the town's local secondary schools as they came together as one and rocked for God thanks to some immoral bottles of twenty-twenty, thunderbird and cheap cider pre gig , I can say I was at that one, can you?
At the time of visiting these places you wouldn't realise less than half a century after a hard slog to build them they would be razed to the ground, but I remember the little details, the tacky, yet strangely inviting decor, ugly wallpaper, carpets like those in The Shining, a proper bar, stand up ashtrays, a waterfall, a fucking waterfall in the pictures? they were all great bits of character sadly lacking of the modern pay-up, sit-down, shut-up, piss-off, multiplex. This was a time before the technology we have now, 24 hour news bulletins, high definition reportage, cctv cameras in toilets, phone masts in trees, tweeting, facebook and anything and everything else we don't really give a shit about forced down our throats, you can see the days headlines before you have even finished your morning piss nowadays, but back then the only time you knew of a forthcoming film release was the 'coming soons' on the big screen and the new posters you could see only once you were inside, I can remember being impressed by the artwork from Naked Gun, amazed that Terminator was getting a sequel, actually being excited about the prospect of the millionth Police Academy even though Mahoney wasn't in it, and also seeing that another long since finished serial was being reborn with the forthcoming release of Carry On Columbus, which flopped like a pair of saggy sixties tits, but seemed a big deal at the time. Another cinema was the Cannon, based slap bang in the town centre, this is now a modern office block which replaced a conservation area where it originally stood, which I'm sure wasn't supposed to be built on in a bid for a more green town centre, my only memories of this place was that it was actually, probably in need of knocking down, I watched the big screen Dolph Lundgren He-Man outing Masters of the Universe here, and it really did stink of piss. I can also remember when in the late 80's and early 90's I had a brief flirtation with American Wrestling when 'WWF' was big the first time around for all of five minutes, or it was big to kids of a certain age and probably to daft gullible grown ups, I stole a poster for a shit British wrestling tour with Kendo Nagasaki on it, off the now boarded up facade, whilst under the guidance of my Grandma.

The Cannon above, The Davenport below:

There was also the Tatton in Gatley a smaller but equally as pleasant cinema too, I can remember watching a few things here, notably really enjoying Tom Hank's Big in 1988, which I'm sure was my most bestest film in the world for that period of time, it brings back memories of whizzing about on a Raleigh Extreme in search of disused funfairs and a Zoltar machine that could turn me into an adult overnight, to no avail, which in hindsight would be a rubbish idea anyway, who wants to miss being a kid to be a hairy grown up who has to go out to work? Another one I saw there which instantly springs to mind, the shit predictable bore-fest Halloween H-20 or whatever it was called, in 1998 ( I had to Google it ) where twenty years later Jamie Lee Curtis is still being chased by a psycho that looks a bit like William Shatner. I only remember this as some little ruffians from the 'shawe sat directly behind us and swore dead loud all the way through.
Then there was the grand Wellington Picture house, which is now a Rileys pool hall. And one of three massive pool and snooker themed places within two square miles, no demand for cinemas, but it seems plenty for boring snooker nerds.

There were even more in this town, with the Theatre Royal and the People's Opera house which were way before my time. The last of the truly old school ones is The Plaza which to be fair, they have rejigged, rehashed and rejuvenated over the last few years via begging, stealing and borrowing, and it is looking to be going strong, they had John Cooper Clark on here late last year and they even screened the classic Get Carter too.

there is, it seems a little bit of hope.

There's actually one old skool cinny still standing but only just, The Savoy in Heaton Moor is a 1920's building with a 460 seated auditorium, it has virtually closed it's doors on a few occasions, most notably one night after only two people turned up, this one's independently owned and to their credit they've soldiered on. People seemingly prefer to go to the out of town multiplexes, where admittedly there's more choice, but no real soul. I'd love to see this one go a bit more arty maybe introduce a nice bar with choice ales and show some better independent films, I'd certainly go more. But it's a tough one to try and keep going and please everyone. Earlier this year Barry Norman backed it suggesting people use it or lose it.
Anyway, I was prompted to this post after I'd recently stumbled across this depressing yet highly interesting site, it is unfortunately a sign of the times, and one which not just affects my own town. Abandoned Theaters.


  1. I'd just like to add Romiley forum and the Regent (still going) in Marple to this list. I used to love the matinee shows at the Davenport and the Forum on Saturday mornings, 100s of kids going mental watching old Batman films cartoons. I used to go to the Canon on Thursdays when it was a quid to get in, I remember my arm going numb after sitting with it round my bird's shoulders for the entire length of the Untouchables, quite an ironic title given that's all I ever did with her in there, then again we were only 14. RIP proper cinemas with curtains, poppets and those metal desks that fired out your little ticket.

  2. Of course, apologies! I always forget about that side of town, I'm from 'the westside'!
    I never really went that way or visited them. I did go to Romiley Bath's once though because they had a slide.

  3. which is the cinema (now abandoned) on the main line between liverpool and manchester- any ideas?

    think the days of cinemas and football stadiums as epicenters (and aesthetically pleasing ones at that) of the community are unfortunatly long behind us. still a few here and there which are managing to get by.

    P.s. 'private grammar schools'...fucks sake

  4. Nice little read this. My nan use to work in the Tatton in Gatley and when my dad was in his teens she'd get him to get on the big ledge outside and put the posters up. She also worked in the Savoy for a few years until it closed.