The Closed Cinemas of Hull

The following research has been undertaken by Brian Fraser, as part of a project for the Hull & District Local History Research Group.

British History Online has published a comprehensive listing of the first 'cinemas' in Hull, which were created by converting many existing buildings (as well as the purpose-built cinemas listed in this article).

The first purpose-built cinema in Kingston upon Hull was the Prince's Hall which was opened in George Street in 1910 (renamed the Curzon 1955). This form of entertainment became popular and, by 1914, there were 29 cinemas and halls showing films in the city. The shells of old picture houses still lie around Kingston upon Hull. Their scale, architecture and detail hint at their former grandeur. Hull's former picture houses tell a tale of a bygone age, when once or twice a week people would forego their daily lives for a few hours of opulence, glamour and escapism.

As befits the birthplace of the Rank movie organisation's founders, Hull embraced the new age of public entertainment. Luxurious cinemas, taking their inspiration from music hall theatres, were built to accommodate audiences in almost every neighbourhood in the city.

By Paragon railway station stood the ABC Regal. Completed 6 weeks ahead of schedule and opening on 26 January 1934, the vast Regal Cinema with 2,553 seats in stalls and single balcony, was the centrepiece of a £95,000 development mixing leisure, retail and office units. Three years after opening it was acquired by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) on 8 November 1937. In 1989, amid talks of closure the ABC was renamed Cannon, before finally closing 29 June 1989. The building was demolished in 2004, to make way for the St Stephens development. The other three ABC cinemas - the Royalty, Rex and Regis - were built in 1935 for City and Suburban Cinemas (Hull) Ltd., before being acquired by the larger national company.

Anlaby Road had the Cecil, there was the Tower (built 1914) and, opposite, the Regent (built 1910 as Kinemacolour Palace; renamed 1919); further out was the Carlton (built 1928). Anlaby Road was also home to a short lived open air cinema. The Garden Cinema lasted just four months, between July and October 1912. Managed by Arthur Graham, it was situated on open land to the west of the Emigrants Station. The Pavilion Picture Palace opened on the same site in the summer of 1915. It closed in 1917. 

The original Cecil opened in 1911 on a site on the opposite side of the road to the present Cecil and was called the Theatre De Luxe, being renamed Cecil in 1925. That theatre was destroyed during a night of air raids on 8 May 1941 but the remains were not cleared until 1953. Work on the new Cecil was begun in April 1955 and it was opened on 28 November 1955 with 1374 seats in the stalls and 678 in the balcony. The cinema operation was closed on 26 March 1992. However older releases were still being shown there as late as 1995. Part of the building is currently used for bingo. 

Heading east, there were no cinemas on Hedon Road, although there had been the short-lived Picture Palace of 1912-1914.

On George Street were the Dorchester (renamed from the Grand in 1935); Princes Hall/Curzon and the Majestic (built 1915), which was renamed the Criterion after renovation in 1935. (The lions which originally guarded the approach steps to the cinema are now in Hornsea Memorial Gardens), Continuing on to Witham, there was the Gaumont (renamed from the Holderness Hall 1950). On Holderness Road there was the Savoy (built 1923); off on Southcoates Lane was the ABC Royalty; further out on Holderness Road was the Astoria and on Bilton Grange's Greenwich Road, stood the Berkeley. which was opened in 1956.

The Astoria Cinema opened on 30 July 1934. Designed by architect James E. Adamson of London and Hull and constructed by Messrs Markwell, Holmes and Hayter Ltd. Seating was 1,000 in the stalls and 500 in the single balcony above which was a large saucer dome with concealed lighting. In 1935 it was taken over by the County Cinemas circuit, but returned to a independent operator a year later. It closed on 7 June 1963 and immediately reopened as the Astoria Bingo Club and continues to this day. Film composer, John Barry, performed here in the late 1950s, leading his band The John Barry Seven. Cleveland Street had one cinema - the Cleveland, built 1914, damaged and re-opened 1941 and finally closed in 1960.

The Waterloo, of 1920 - 1959, was in Waterloo Street.

Beverley Road had the Strand (built 1914, closed 1960 and demolished after a 1965 fire). The National had been opened as the Coliseum in 1912, renamed the Rialto in 1920, before finally becoming the National in 1960.(It took its name from the blitzed and destroyed National Picture Theatre on the opposite side of the road). The Mayfair was a cinema from 1929 to 1964; from 1965 it was used as a bingo hall. In 1998 it reopened as a pub, the Hogshead (despite another pub at the other end of De Grey Street also being named the Hogshead). It is currently (2011) named the Hollywood & Vine.

The Monica (built 1914) was on Newland Avenue, closing in 1961, and since 1965 has been the Piper Club. On North Hull Estate's Quadrant was the ABC Rex.

On Spring Bank West was a large cinema - the Priory, from 1938 to 1959, since used as retail premises.

The Londesborough was situated on Wenlock Street. Built in 1926, it closed in 1959. It was demolished in the 1970s after being used as a warehouse for a removal company.

The Langham was the first cinema reached when travelling west on Hessle Road. Built 1929, it was on the sites of both the Magnet (in West Dock Avenue) and the Hessle Road Picture Palace (both of 1912). Next reached was the Eureka of 1912, then ABC Regis and finally the Plaza at Hessle Square.