Royal Picture House
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Previously operated by: MacNaghten Vaudeville Circuit
Previous Names: People's Theatre, Theatre Royal
In the Attercliffe district of Sheffield, close to the junction of Staniforth Road and Attercliffe Road, the People’s Theatre opened on 26th December 1896. It was an adaptation of part of the Palm Tree works, a foundry in Pinfold Lane (subsequently renamed Staniforth Road). The seating capacity was 750 and the proprietor was Edward Darbey, of Chesterfield.
The theatre was renamed the Theatre Royal on 13th December 1897, shortly after the lease had been acquired by the North of England Theatre Corporation.
The theatre closed at the end of May 1899 for a major reconstruction that lasted six months. It was redesigned to the plans of architects Martin Jackson & Bloomfield Jackson. The balcony was extended, while the pit and stalls were enlarged and re-seated; the stage was also reconstructed. Sources vary, but it is likely this increased capacity to around 1,100.
It is possible that ‘moving pictures’ were shown as early as 1904. What is not in doubt is that an abrupt change of policy mid-way through 1906 saw the vaudeville, drama and musical plays being interspersed with film shows - which took over more and more from 9th February 1907, although live shows were still presented.
Towards the end of 1912 the Theatre Royal was modernised. Popular films when it re-opened in 1913 were “Lorna Done”, “Cleopatra” and “Quo Vadis?” and later that year programmes were presented in Kinemacolor.
By 1922 the hall was known as the Royal Picture House, although live acts were still presented.
In February 1929 the Royal Picture House presented an entire programme of ‘talkies’, using a British Talking Pictures(BTP) sound system. Attendances appear to have been disappointing, though, and during the summer the Royal Picture Theatre was redecorated and refurbished. The first full-length ‘talkie’, “Fox Movietone Follies of 1929”, starring John Breeden and Lola Lane, played during the week beginning 16th September 1929.
The Royal Picture House closed on 17th June 1933. It was announced that MacNaughton Vaudeville Circuit Ltd. were considering a complete reconstruction. However, the hall was sold to a syndicate of Sheffield businessmen, headed by the Scheitzer brothers, who formed a new company, Regal Attercliffe Ltd. The building was completely gutted; from it arose the Regal Cinema, which opened on 14th October 1935, and has its own page on Cinema Treasures.
(Principal research by the late Clifford H. Shaw.)
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