The following images, taken in 1913, come from our collection of British Thomson-Houston (BTH) images, and focus on some of those then newly built cinemas that have not survived to the present day. They show some of the first installations of electric lighting in cinemas just prior to WWI. BTH was also known for its development of cinema motion picture sound technologies in the early 1930s.
BTH Lamp Factory, Coventry, Photographs from January 1913
British Thomson-Houston (BTH) was an engineering company, based at Rugby, Warwickshire. Formed in 1894 as a subsidiary of the General Electric Company of the USA it was taken into British ownership in 1928. Whilst known as a heavy industrial company, it had a lamp division based in Coventry that was one of the major British electric lighting manufacturers.
In the years before WWI, BTH installed its products into many theatres that were converting to electric lighting and also into the new purpose-built cinemas that began to proliferate following the Cinematograph Act of 1909. The two images below show the BTH lamp factory in January 1913.
The Angel Picture Theatre, High Street, Islington, London, Photographs from May 1913
The Angel Picture Theatre was built by A Davis to the designs of the architect H. Courtenay Constantine and the Theatre opened 19 March 1913. These two images, taken in May 1913, show the interior of the cinema.
The cinema name changed to the Angel Cinema in 1929, then it was renamed the Odeon Cinema in 1963. It was closed 18 March 1972 and the auditorium demolished in 1974. All that remains today are the Balcony Entrance and Tower which are Grade II Listed.
Cinema House, Barkers Pool, Sheffield, Photograph from June 1913
The image below shows the Cinema House, Sheffield, which opened 6 May 1913, designed by the Walsall based architects J. A. Hickton and H. E. Farmer with a capacity for 800 people. It was owned by Sheffield and District Cinematograph Theatre Limited and included a tea room.
The cinema closed 12 August 1961 and was demolished later in the year to make way for new offices and shops.
New Empire Cinema, Newgate Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Photographs from June 1913
The New Empire Cinema was a conversion from the former Dunn and Dick Jeweller’s shop situated next door to the Empire Palace Theatre, and it opened 2 April 1913. It was built for Moss Empires, who also owned the adjacent theatre at that time. With a ‘special ticket’ a patron could move between the cinema and theatre without going into the street. This was a very luxurious cinema with mahogany doors and fittings, marble floors and walls and in the auditorium cedarwood carvings, tapestries and friezes. There was a large tea room above the foyer which had its own entrance and another tea room and a smoking lounge on the second floor (tea room shown in image below).
The cinema (see the 3 images below) is believed to have closed around 1933 and the site is today being used as an entrance to Newgate shopping centre. The Empire Theatre survived another 30 years before being demolished in 1963.
Pavilion Electric Theatre, Promenade, Whitley Bay, Photograph from June 1913
The Salt Water Baths were built at the side of the Whitley Park Hotel, Whitley Bay, on the Promenade in 1897. In April 1909, the owner Robert L. Grice placed a wooden floor over the baths and converted the building into the Baths Pavilion Cinema. By June 1909, it was known as the New Cosy Pavilion Cinema, and then in June 1911 it became known as the Pavilion Electric Theatre (see image below). By 1923, it was operated by Whitley Bay Entertainments Ltd. It was destroyed by fire on 20th December 1923.
Palace of Varieties, Redcar, Cleveland, Photographs from June 1913
The Palace of Varieties opened around 1912 as a theatre, but by the end of 1913 it was presenting films as part of the variety programme (see images below). In 1921 it was taken over by Messrs. Lumley & Bennett and by 1926 it was mainly used as a cinema and operated by Arthur R Bennett. In 1929 a BTH sound system was installed, one of the first in the north-east of England, and it was re-named the Palace Theatre under new owners.
The Palace Theatre was equipped to show CinemaScope films in 1955 but it closed as a cinema in 1962 and became a bingo club which closed in 1979. In 1982 the premises were bought and converted into an amusement arcade which closed by 2007 and the building was demolished in 2012.
Assembly Rooms Cinema, Briggate, Leeds, Photographs from June 1913
The Grand Assembly Rooms in Leeds, part of the complex which contained the Grand Theatre and Opera House, built in 1877 and 1888, was located on the first and second floors above street level shops, and was used as a concert hall and for meetings. The complex was designed by architects George Corson and James Robertson Watson of Leeds.
Films were shown in the Grand Assembly Rooms from 1903 and in 1906 the building was leased to New Century Pictures and they held a re-opening in April 1907 with ‘New Century Talking & Singing Pictures’ using Gaumont’s Chronophone. From 1913 when the photographs below were taken it was known as the Assembly Rooms Cinema.
The Assembly Rooms Cinema was closed 5 April 1958 by Gaumont British Theatres which had taken over New Century Pictures in 1928. Later in 1958 the cinema was taken over by the Star Cinemas chain who renamed the cinema the Plaza Cinema which finally closed as a cinema in 1985.
St James Cinema, Harrogate, Photographs from June 1913
This was a conversion of a building originally built in 1882 as a club for the Harrogate Conservative Club. For 20 years prior to cinema shows the building had been used as a sale room. It opened as the St James Cinema in mid-April 1907 (see images from 1913 below) and closed in May 1960.
The building was converted into a supermarket but demolished in the early 20th century. A brand new Marks and Spencer store was built on the site, opening in November 2005.
For anyone interested in these and photographs of other cinemas from the early 20th century, the BTH lamp factory photographs (archive reference NAEST 74/4) can be consulted in the IET Archives by appointment.