Not sure where to start? We were very lucky in Bury to have three Cinemas or Picture Houses to choose from. The ‘Odeon’, the ‘Playhouse’ and the ‘Central’, the latter was down Hatter Street so wasn’t really very central and was otherwise known as the ‘Flea Pit’ although I can’t remember ever bringing home any small passengers from there!
The Playhouse was in the Butter Market and was also a proper Theatre. The Odeon was opposite the Bus Station in Brentgovel Street and had the iconic Odeon Cinema facade, a great pity it has gone now.
All the cinema programmes were published in the Bury Free Press and we eagerly scanned these to see what films were on and if our parents would either take us to see one or give us the money to go.
The Playhouse, I think, also had a Saturday morning Club but I do not remember being a member of it. We did, however, all go to the Playhouse on a school trip to see ‘The Conquest of Everest’ which would, of course, have been in 1953. We were proud of our British achievements then, and there were other school trips to the cinema later, one of which was to see Laurence Olivier’s Henry 5.
Other notable first viewings were The Wizard of Oz, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs (I was frightened of trees at night for years after seeing the latter.)
My Maternal Great-Aunt’s daughters Pam & Maureen Smith, both worked as Usherettes at the Bury Cinemas …I think one was at the Odeon and one at the Playhouse, but I can’t remember who was at which.
The Odeon is perhaps the best remembered as many of us belonged to the Odeon Saturday Morning Pictures Club and as many remember it was 6d (2.5p) downstairs and 9d (3.75p) upstairs. Many of us went from the Mildenhall Estate and as my sister and brother will remember, would walk into town and spend the bus fare on ice cream or the extra 3d (1.25p) to go upstairs.
The films were great: Hop-along Cassidy, Roy Rogers & Trigger his horse, the Lone Ranger & Tonto, Old Mother Reilly, Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello to name just a few. There was also a serial with one episode per week, at the end of which there was always a cliff hanger so you needed to come back next week to see what happened.
Often the Manager would walk onto the stage in front of the screen before the show and give us a lecture on the cost of cinema screens and thus why we should not throw things at them.
The Central in Hatter Street was, for me, the least favourite cinema. Not really sure why? It was the smallest and had a poor reputation but strangely, after being converted into a two studio cinema, survived quite a long time. I am not sure if it is still there?
The Central used to often show low budget horror films and as such was quite popular with teenagers, as girlfriends tended to get frightened and cuddle closer during the scary bits.
The Cinema was of course where one often took new girlfriends on a first date, and we boys also got stood up outside on occasions! When, however, the young lady did turn up, one would try to sit as far back in the stalls as possible (the back row was the most popular where there was no-one behind you).
This didn’t always work as there were usherettes showing you to seats in those days and they often put you too far forward. Once sat down however the goal, for us boys at least, was to sneak an arm along the back of the seat around her shoulders! Oh,the joy when she responded and leaned her head on your shoulder! …but I digress.
Cinemas were extremely popular
Many of my contemporary’s parents did not get a television until the late fifties, so the cinemas in the town were extremely popular and for new films, one would often have to queue outside waiting for the first house to come out. There were however continuous performances in those days, an early and late evening show, or first and second houses.
If you got to the early performance late and missed the first part of the film you could sit through the Newsreel and Pearl & Dean and see the start of the film in the second house. There were also usually two films per house, the main feature and a small shorter second film. In the afternoons there was also a matinee which I believe was cheaper for O.A.Ps
I also, in later years had the pleasure of taking my two nieces Dawn & Tasha to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks at the Odeon when I was home from the sea on leave.
Many, many happy remembrances of the cinemas in Bury as I am sure most of those of my generation would agree.
it does seem sad that these days this form of social interaction has all but gone…or has it?
Other Memories of John Stocking