Palace Cinema

Frances Street,
Newtownards, BT23

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Newtownards Electric Theatre, Our Own Picture House, Your Own Picture House

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On 23rd December 1911, the Newtownards Chronicle reported that “Newtownards is to have its own permanent picture palace and at short notice” (it was a conversion of an existing building, previous use unknown). Two days later, on Christmas Day 1915 at 3pm, the Newtownards Electric Theatre opened its doors in Great Frances Street (later known as Frances Street). The operators were Irish Electric Palaces Ltd., a rapidly expanding local chain who had venues in Belfast, Dublin and other towns. The manager was a Mr W.A. Campbell. The following week the paper stated that the “Grand Opening” had been an enormous success with hundreds having to be turned away.

Films were supplied by Films Ltd., a distributor who had offices in High Street, Belfast and in Liverpool. Films were shown twice nightly with changes every Monday and Thursday; prices charged were 3d, 6d and 1s. Lack of room soon became a problem. The Newtownards Chronicle (13 January 1912) said that “owing to present capacity there will be 3 nightly performances on Saturdays only, at 5.45, 7.30 and 9.00”.

Within two years of opening, an advertisement in the Newtownards Chronicle (11 October 1913) stated that “the old premises were inadequate and lack comfort”. The Electric Palace was closing that same evening so as to “permit the management to devote their entire attention towards perfecting arrangements for the opening of the new theatre in Regent Street, which will take place shortly.” (See separate entry for The Picture House, Regent Street, Newtownards in Cinema Treasures).

Only a week after the Electric Theatre had moved out, the owners of the building, Morrison Brothers, opened their own cinema there. Morrison Brothers, a local family concern headed by Robert Morrison, also ran a coach building and motor engineering works in premises behind the cinema building.

An article in the Newtownards Chronicle (13 October 1977) mentions an early cinema at the far end of Frances Street. This was, most probably, the site of the Newtownards Electric Theatre. Unfortunately the entries for Newtownards in the Belfast and Ulster Street Directory do not list street numbers for the town during that era.

The “Grand Opening” of Morrison’s new cinema took place on Saturday 18th October 1913 at 3pm (Newtownards Chronicle, 18th October 1913). Films were supplied by Weisker Bros. of Liverpool. The general manger was Alf Thomas, the former manager of the Electric Theatre.

Initially the new cinema was advertised as Our Own Picture House (Newtownards Chronicle, 18th October 1913) but this was quickly tweaked to Your Own Picture House. The name was chosen, perhaps, to reflect its local ownership and differentiate it from the new Picture House in Regent Street (owned by Irish Electric Palaces). The fact that the town’s two cinemas had almost identical names must have been a source of some confusion to local cinema goers. It can therefore have come as no huge surprise when Morrison’s changed the name of their cinema, around 15th January 1916, to the Palace Cinema.

On 2nd November 1918 the Palace Cinema was destroyed by a fire, which also engulfed and gutted Morrison’s Coach Building business in Movilla Street (which adjoined the cinema). The report in the Newtownards Chronicle (2nd November 1918) talked about the timber construction of the buildings. The financial implication of the inferno was reported to be in excess of £2,000, a substantial sum of money at the time.

A press statement from the owners said, without any touch of irony, that “there will be no entertainment until further notice”. However, cinema in Great Frances Street, while halted for the time being, had a bright future ahead of it - see entry under Ritz Cinema, Frances Street, Newtownards in Cinema Treasures.

Contributed by Torchlight
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