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Once upon a time in Accrington

THE story behind Accrington's Premiere Cinema reads like a film script.

THE story behind Accrington's Premiere Cinema reads like a film script. It all started 10 years ago when people began campaigning to bring the silver screen back to the town and it nearly ended in September when the cinema closed its doors less than a year after opening.

However, Globe Enterprises - a third owned by Hyndburn Council - came to the rescue last month and the cinema re-opened for business, much to the relief of film buffs.

Despite the recent turbulence, cinemas have a long and rich history in the borough, dating back to the turn of the century.

The first recorded instance of movies being shown in Accrington was in 1902 when a travelling company called Edison Animated Picture Company hired the Town Hall to show a silent film.

The town's first permanent picture house was the Dowry Street Picture Palace. It opened in February 1910 in a former engineering works building and seated between 400 and 500 people.

It eventually closed in 1916, but the popularity of the cinema continued to grow. By 1950, there were six cinemas in and around Accrington town centre, as well as two in Oswaldtwistle, one in Church, two in Clayton-le-Moors, one in Rishton and two in Great Harwood. But the boom lasted only a decade. By 1960 four of Accrington's cinemas were closed.

Many of the area's cinemas were in buildings that had housed, or went on to house, theatres. One example is the Hippodrome Theatre at the bottom of Ellison Street, which operated in the late 1920s and 1930s before reverting to a theatre.

The first full-length talking picture to be screened in Accrington, The Donovan Affair, was shown at the Hippodrome on 29 August 1929.

The original Hippodrome was a wooden building and was built in 1903 on the site of Ohmy's circus. It burned down on 6 June 1908 and was rebuilt and re- opened in December 1908.

Many accounts of Accrington's cinemas refer to the popular King's Hall on Whalley Road. It was originally called the Picturedrome and was the second cinema to open in Accrington.

It changed its name to King's Hall in 1915 and became famous for its cheap Saturday matinees - fondly known as the Tuppenny rush - when crowds of children were packed into the building on benches.

King's Hall had a number of nicknames including the Ranch, the Corral, the Laugh and Scratch and the Flea Pit, due to its unhygienic conditions and its reputation for showing cowboy films.

Accrington's first purpose-built cinema was the Empire in Edgar Street, which opened its doors in April 1911.

Others included the Ritz on Church Street and the Palace on Whalley Road. The latter, which was open from 1915 to 1960, actually had its own orchestra at one time. But the most long-lasting cinema started out its life as the Regal, which opened in 1937 on the site of the former Myer stables in Broadway.

It was renamed the Odeon in April 1945 and the Classic in 1967, before being taken over by Unit 4 in October 1973, and converted into a multi-screen cinema.

Its closure in 1990 to allow the site to be redeveloped opened the void that wasn't filled until the opening of the Premiere 12 years later in November 2002.


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist