The Black & White Picture Place

A Brief History of Cinema in Chester

by David A. Ellis and Steve Howe

Introduction | Music Hall | Gaumont Palace | Tatler/Classic | ABC Regal | Odeon | Park, Saltney | Other Cinemas | Advertisments

The Majestic

Pat Collins, famous for his travelling fair (that still survives and vists Chester every year) also owned several cinemas. He opened his Cinema Deluxe in Brook Street on 18th April 1921. Lady Arthur Grosvenor performed the opening ceremony of the 1160-seat hall, describing it at the time as "handsome and spacious".

She was presented with a silver rose bowl inscribed, "Presented to Lady Arthur Grosvenor by Mr and Mrs P. Collins as a souvenir on the occasion of opening Collins' new Cinema Deluxe, Brook Street, Chester, April 18th 1921".

Over the entrance hall, there was an ornamental canopy of ironwork and glass. The foyer floor had black and white marble tiles and the auditorium, which was 106 ft long and 54 ft wide, had a black and white terrazzo floor. The walls had a dado of embossed paper.

The opening film was Harley Knowles' production, Carnival. An orchestra, under the direction of the remarkably-named Mr J. J. Proverbs accompanied the images on screen. Pat, noted for his generosity, donated the takings from the first performance to the YMCA.

majestic bingo c.1966The first manager was Mr Jack Locker- a well-built gentleman who was known as "Fatty Locker" by the locals.

In 1926, Pat Collins pulled out of cinema. The name was then shortened to Cinema Deluxe. In the June of the same year, the cinema closed, the final film being Lady Robin Hood.

It re-opened just a month later, re-named as The Majestic. The first offering under the new name was The Sporting Chance.

Around 1929, General theatres, part of Gaumont British, took over the running of the hall. In 1930, the cinema ran its first sound film, Three Live Ghosts.

Rank and Gaumont merged in 1948, becoming Circuits Management Association. They closed the Majestic as a cinema on 29th September 1956. The filal film was Woman's World.

The last manager was Mr Alfred Newton, who went on to manage the Music Hall. The last projectionist was Doug Jones. His father, Hughie, was chief of the Regal.

staff of majestic cinemaOn 16th March, 1957, the theatre became the Majestic Ballroom, opened by Tom Price, the deputy mayor. Bandleader Roy Williams fronted the Majestic Ballroom Orchestra. But eight years later, in 1965, 'eyes down' took over from tapping feet when the inevitable bingo took over.

In 1970, the bingo was transferred to the former Gaumont Palace just up the road, where it remains today as the successful Mecca Bingo Club.

Left: the Majestic's staff enjoying their Christmas party

The auditorium of the old Majestic was demolished when the Hoole Way section of Chester's Inner Ring Road was constructed but the 'Tudor-style' frontage remains today as retail premises.

Writing about it in 1998, Dorothy Carline recalled, "I remember a cinema in Brook Street which became the Majestic Ballroom. I would never go to it as people called it ‘the bug hutch’. It conjured up terrible thoughts of itching and disinfectant".

Owner Pat Collins had entertained plans for opening another cinema in Foregate Street, but for some reason this did not come to fruition. (no connection with the above, one trusts?)

Go on to learn a little about Chester's other cinemas- and also some that were never opened...

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