Savoy Cinema

Shaftesbury, SP7 8BN

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Architects: Edward G. De Wilde Holding

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Savoy Cinema

In Shaftesbury, Dorset, the Savoy Cinema opened in December 1933 with “Maid of the Mountains”, starring Nancy Brown and Harry Welchman. It was designed by Edward G. de Wilde Holding in stadium style and stood opposite the town’s largest church, which apparently caused some initial controversy. It was an impressive building, despite only having 382 seats. A Bauer sound system was soon replaced by a British Acoustic/Duosonic system.

The Savoy Cinema was originally owned by Percy Carter, who had operated the Palace Cinema in the town (see separate Cinema Treasures entry) which he closed when the Savoy Cinema opened. In 1940 the Savoy Cinema was acquired by Elliott Turnbull.

The proscenium was 24ft wide, the stage 20ft deep and there were three dressing rooms. This enabled variety acts to be presented, and for many years a pantomime was put on each Christmas. However, changes appear to have been made in the late-1940’s, as, after then, the stage was reported to be ‘only’ 14ft deep and there were just two dressing rooms. Happily, these did not prevent CinemaScope being installed in the mid-1950’s, utilising a 24ft 6ins wide screen. By that time, the Savoy Cinema had been acquired by Bassett Cinemas Ltd.

Later on, the Savoy Cinema was taken over by Peter Lindsay Leisure. This was before 31st October 1978 because, on that date, it was reported that manager Ivan Osborne had been dismissed from his £40 per week job because he refused to show sex films. He vowed that he was only prepared to show films suitable for his wife and his young children, and he refused to play “Come Play With Me”, “Salon Kitty” and “The Erotic Adventures of Pinnochio”. Peter Lindsay was said to be not available for comment. (Churchgoers were also not quoted!) Interestingly, Mr Osborne lived in a three-bedroomed house near the cinema that went with the job.

In summer 1982 the Savoy Cinema screened its most successful film, Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster “E.T.”, and followed this the next year by celebrating its 50th anniversary.

But sadly, closure was on the cards, and this occurred just a year later, in 1984. The precise closing date is not known, but the final film was “Champions”, starring John Hurt and Edward Woodward, which was released in March 1984.

The building was demolished the same year for residential redevelopment. Savoy Court now stands on the site, so at least the cinema’s name carries on.

Contributed by David Simpson
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