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 The History of the Woolton Picture House.
Woolton`s cinema was designed in 1926 by Lionel AG Pritchard, (Honourary member of The Associate Royal Institute of British Architects).an established architect who designed several cinema’s on Merseyside, including the Plaza Crosby, West Derby Village picture house, Clubmoor Picture house,The Reo cinema Longmoor lane and the Ritz Anfield.The location chosen to build the Woolton Picture house was less than idyllic,with its close proximity to residential housing on both Mill Street and Mason Street along with its challenging steep hill. However the steep gradient was adapted very effectively by the architect to create a stadium like auditorium in a very compact and refined space. Shortly after the design plans were finished, with an outlay of £10,000 to complete the venture, the proprietors “The Woolton picture house co Ltd” were granted a magistrates licence on condition the main construction of the building be complete within six months.Work began proper in April 1927 by A Adams & Co on Woolton villages first and only purpose built cinema. The building construction was completed on schedule by October 1927 with the interior finishing touches made in November & December 1927. Although the cinema celebrates its opening on December 26th there is actually no official recording of the opening date or memory of the first film shown. From records and licences it can be presumed the cinema opened sometime between December 1927 and February 1928.
The Auditoria originally had a seating capacity of over 800 this included towards the back of the hall several rows of wooden benches . In or around 1930 (with the advent of movie sound) the screen was brought forward to accommodate large loudspeakers at the rear. To do this the first few rows of seats had to be removed. The financial loss due to a reduced seating capacity was however soon overcome by the pulling power of  the talking movies .In the 1930`s,came the ever growing popularity of the silver screens of Merseyside, with little urban competition the Woolton cinema ensured its success and prosperity to last through the 1940`s. The cinema remained open throughout the war years, surviving the bombing raids of WW2 whilst providing the close knit local community of Woolton a vital window to the front line,courtesy of the Pathe Newsreels.After the war years modest Success continued and in 1954 the ownership of the cinema changed hands from the proprietor R L Weller to Robert Godfrey of Cheshire county cinemas. It wasn’t until the 22nd September 1958 when the cinema’s continuity was dramatically disrupted by a fire near the front of the screen which soon spread, almost destroying the public area of the Auditorium. The building remained closed for three months, during this time extensive work was essential in order to bring the building back to its original condition whilst maintaining the same original décor and ambiance of the 1920`s. The new refurbishment included comfortable seating (which reduced the capacity to under 600) plus a new screen, new curtains and a new air ventilation system The eagerly awaited Reopening was on the 22nd of December 1958 with the showing of Walt Disney’s “Old yeller” plus the supporting film “sail into danger”.
In the 1960`s at a time when many of the old style single screen cinema’s of Merseyside had already fallen victim to changing public trends & the colour tv, Wooltons regular cinemagoers and the success of the popular children’s serial film Saturday matinees helped secure the Woolton`s future.However with American style multi screen cinema looming on the horizon,the owners Cheshire County cinema’s could not afford to be complacent. In the 1980`s they revamped the front exterior of the building by adding a prominent row of large white steel slats, new canopy and new illuminated signs.During their time in ownership they also installed a new wall-to-wall screen proscenium, along with new carpeting, 256 luxury Pullman seats, (reducing the capacity further for a much more spacious and comfortable setting). Cautious of a uncertain future they also applied for a betting license for the intended use of bingo and although the betting and gaming board had no objections the ideas were later shelved by the cinema owners themselves.By the 1990`s Cheshire county cinema’s had wound down their chain of cinema’s and were seeking a new buyer for the Woolton cinema.The threat of closure was treated with despair by both cinema staff and the local community.Thankfully in 1992 without closure the Woolton cinema’s ownership changed hands for a sum approaching £105,000 to first time cinema owner David Wood, son of Tony Wood and the grandson of Merseyside cinema pioneer John F Wood (former owner of the Bedford chain of cinemas including their flagship cinema the Abbey Cinerama Wavertree).
Once again the Woolton cinema flourished with success in the 1990`s comparable to its earlier years in the heyday of the silver screen. Whatever the Woolton cinemas single screen lacked in immediate choice of films, it more than made up for with its friendly charm and character, as many cinemagoers would rather wait to see the film of their choice at the Woolton rather than see it earlier at a multi screen cinema. By the turn of the millennium the Woolton cinema had gained the respect and admiration of cinemagoers from across the Merseyside area,Ironically with many film fans themselves turning their back on the mundane and clinical modernistic experience offered to them by the multiplex cinema in favour of a quaint old style family cinema with family traditions.Constantly striving to add to the cinematic experience the Woolton cinema’s ground breaking success in the 90`s enabled further investment which included a new Dts digital surround sound system, A full installation of new digital speakers and sub-woofer, higher definition projection lens equipment, extensive electrical rewiring, new velvet drapes and a full refurbishment of the luxury Pullman seats. By 2005 the foundations had been firmly laid for a bright and successful future.Then without warning came a catastrophic and dramatic turn of misfortune                                     
First came the unexpected death of David Swindell the Chief projectionist and backbone of the cinema for almost 40yrs followed in quick succession by the death of cinema owner David Wood.The Cinemas future was now once more put into doubt and realised when the owners remaining family announced their intentions to close the cinema and sell off the building due to their bereavement. Despite all achievements for the second time in little over a decade the staff and local community were once more in despair at the impending loss of Woolton’s cinema.The final curtain under the ownership of The Wood family came less than six weeks after the announced closure and the Woolton cinema closed on the 5th of September 2006 with the film Pirates of the Caribbean 2.                            Both before and after the closure, campaigns to save the cinema gained momentum with this our own websites www.wooltoncinema.co.uk leading by example to be the first and official staff website dedicated to saving Woolton`s cinema,this soon attracted more campaigns, local media attention and even more public support. (One such event also resulted in the remaining members of John Lennons former Woolton band the Quarrymen reforming to offer their support). After a further four months of closed doors and an uncertain future the sale of the Woolton cinema was completed for a undisclosed amount believed to be in the region of £450,000, To the delight of all concerned the anonymous Merseyside consortium of businessmen announced their intention to reopen the cinema “claiming” to take on all the original staff. As of March 2007 against all the odds and all current trends the Woolton cinema regained its status as the oldest surviving independant cinema on Merseyside.  
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