A Brief History of Cinema in Chester
by David A. Ellis and Steve Howe
Chesters only news theatre, The Tatler, later to become The Classic, opened for business on Wednesday, 2nd December, 1936.
Right: Foregate Street as it appeared in 1971: the recently-closed Classic Cinema and the Swan Inn were soon afterwards demolished to make way for a large C&A store. This later became Woolworth's and is now a branch of Primark...
A winding staircase led to the balcony lounge, which was small and housed two couches. The auditorium was long but not very wide. Footlights and vertical battens at the side of the stage originally provided screen lighting. Later, after a re-fit under Classic management, lighting was beamed from the balcony. Auditorium lighting was housed in coves, and the curved ceiling had a sky blue lighting effect.
In late 1937 the theatre began to show feature films. The Tatler sign came down in 1957 when Classic cinemas took control. The Classic presented films that were several years old, giving cinemagoers a chance to see films they had missed, or to see again ones long forgotten.
In its last few years the movie house showed more up-to-date second runs, and films from distributors the major circuits wouldn't touch. The Tatler's slogan was "All Chester is now going to the Tatler Theatre".
The Classic and the Swan Hotel, known as 'Eddie Davies', "the hotel with the famous film performing parrots", which was next door (both illustrated above) were soon afterwards demolished to make way for a giant C & A store, which opened in 1972, later became Woolworth's and is now a branch of Primark. A fine photograph of the Classic as it looked in 1970 can be seen on our Swan Hotel page.
"Where C&A stands now was the Tatler Cinema. It was smail with lovely red velvet seats. The usherette used to serve tea from an urn during the interval. Outside the cinema in Foregate Street was a row of beautiful trees". Dorothy Carline, Chester Standard 1998
Above: the Tatler's projection room in 1936 and right: the cinema's facade in 1945