Ritz @ St Vincent

Mill Lane,
Gosport, PO12 4QA

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The Ritz @ St Vincent (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Picturehouse Cinemas UK

Functions: Movies (Classic), Movies (Second Run)

Previous Names: Cinema 1 @ St Vincent, St Vincent Cinema

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Ritz @ St Vincent

In Gosport, Hampshire, when the Ritz Cinema closed in April 1999 (see separate Cinema Treasures entry) the town was left without any big-screen entertainment.

This wasn’t planned to be the case for very long, as the intention was to replace it with a New Ritz Cinema, presumably to a rather more modest scale, but with five screens. This intention was announced well before the Ritz Cinema closed, so the initial idea behind the cinema at St Vincent [sixth form] College was as something of a ‘stop-gap’ measure, to be run by Arrow Cinemas, which ran the Ritz Cinema, at least until the New Ritz Cinema was operational.

This scheme would also benefit the college, which had planned to open a stand-alone arts centre near Forton Creek, a part of Forton Lake that lies within its grounds, but had been unable to secure Lottery funding. It was thought that opening a public cinema would help the college in a future bid for further arts-related developments.

Then, it was later thought, when the New Ritz Cinema opened, at the end of 1999, the two venues would actually complement each other, with the New Ritz Cinema concentrating on ‘popular’ programming, and the college cinema playing limited release, ‘art-house’, films. The sum of £100,000, set aside by the council for the college’s abortive arts centre bid, was reallocated to the new St Vincent cinema (an upgrading of the college’s lecture theatre).

Unfortunately, in September 1999, the council terminated its contract with Anglo Haussmann Developments, which was supposed to be building the New Ritz Cinema, and that scheme was abandoned. Instead, the site of the Ritz Cinema would be given over purely to retail (an Iceland store duly appeared).

Meanwhile, Arrow Cinemas had started showing films at the college earlier during 1999 as Cinema 1 @ St Vincent. The opening date is not known, but it must have been spring-time, as Arrow pulled out “after only a few months” due to a lack of trade, and it is believed their final shows, from Friday to Sunday, 24th to 26th September 1999, were (separate) early evening (5.30pm) screenings of “The Wild, Wild West”, starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline, and later evening (8pm) showings of “Notting Hill”, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.

Then, in April 2000, it was announced that City Screen had expressed an interest in running the St Vincent cinema. There was also talk of a cinema being part of Berkeley Homes' planned redevelopment of part of Royal Clarence Yard, which had opened in 1828 as a Royal Navy victualling establishment. So City Screen was put in touch with Berkeley, and it was hoped the two new cinemas would complement each other in the same way it had been intended that the New Ritz Cinema and the St Vincent Cinema would do.

In June 2000 the council agreed to provide a £12,000 subsidy to City Screen, to assist its first 12 months at the new St Vincent cinema.

The ‘new’ St Vincent cinema duly opened on Friday 15th September 2000. Screenings were on Friday evenings, and Saturdays and Sundays. Among the opening films were “Final Destination”, starring Devon Sawa, and Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator”, both of which had been released in the UK back in May.

Sadly, there would be no happy endings here. The Clarence Yard redevelopment eventually went ahead with a marina, bars and restaurants among the leisure facilities, but no cinema, and the St Vincent cinema closed on Sunday 17th June 2001, despite the 12 months' subsidy. The final films were children’s adventure “Spy Kids” (at 4pm), the classic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at 5.45pm and art-house favourite “Chocolat”, starring Juliette Binoche and Judy Dench, at 8pm.

But there was to be a happy outcome, as the ‘big screen’ returned to St Vincent College in May 2017. Now known as The Ritz @ St Vincent (in a nice nod to the town’s iconic 1935 picture house) this volunteer-run, community cinema presents a mixture of new releases and classics on alternate Thursdays during term time.

Contributed by David Simpson
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