Monday, August 22, 2011

A Historical Tour along the Stratford Road 7

The Picture Palace

On Monday 18th December 1911, Barber's Electric Picture Palace opened for business with a French silent film called Zigomar. I don't know anything about the film but I am sure the first audience found it very exciting. In those days the films were very short, initially "one-reel" films and the "two reel films". In between films, or changing reels, the Palace used to offer live variety acts. The pianist accompanying the films was Oliver Thorneycroft.

The Palace could seat up to 650 and in the days before television was a great success. Even in the 1950s I can remember the house being packed for Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley and the Comets, but shortly after that audiences fell sharply and the cinema closed on January  22nd 1961 - a fifty year life.

Since that time it has been a bingo hall, a dance hall, a night club and a church. The front used to have a canopy over the forecourt area. I don't know when that disappeared.


Andrew said...

This link suggests that Zigomar might have been a three reel film:

Bryan Dunleavy said...

Thanks for the correction Andrew. It is a reminder that before talkies introduced a language barrier, the French were leading film producers.