In the early 1900s, a new type of entertainment in the form of moving pictures became very popular and people greatly enjoyed a night at the local cinema. Tipton had more cinemas than many other towns in the Black Country, six in all: The Alhambra, The Cinema, The Palace, The Picture House, The Tivoli, and The Victoria. Cinemas became a practicality after the passing of the Cinematograph Act in 1910 that allowed permanent installations in premises that could be inspected and licensed.

The Alhambra

Dudley Port once had its own cinema called 'The Alhambra' that stood on the corner of Dudley Port and Groveland Road. It occupied a building that was known as 'The Alhambra Rink', a roller-skating rink that had previously been a Salvation Army Citadel. 'The Alhambra' cinema opened late in 1910 or early 1911 and during the First World War was operated by Round and Hipkins. After the war it was acquired by fairground entrepreneur Pat Collins, who ran the cinema until December 1927, when he sold it to Miles Jervis Cinemas of Chasetown. They also owned cinemas in Wednesbury, West Bromwich and Oldbury.

Around 1933, Miles Jervis sold the cinema to Sheridan Film Services of Burton-on-Trent, who demolished the building and replaced it with a modern cinema. The structural steelwork was provided by Rubery Owen of Darlaston, and the bricks came from Pratts brickworks at Oldbury. The interior was tastefully decorated with murals on the side walls, depicting mountain scenes, silk rose pink curtains, and accommodation for 830 people, in plush tip-up seats. The cinema was officially opened on Monday the 8th April, 1935, by Councillor A. F. Welch, Chairman of Tipton Urban District Council. The first film was 'Sing As We Go' starring Gracie Fields.

From the Tipton Herald newspaper, July 1957.

From the Tipton Herald newspaper, September 1957.

Although 'The Alhambra' in its rebuilt form was Tipton's finest cinema, it stood in a poor location and so attendances were worse than expected. In the 1960s, Bingo sessions were held in the cinema, run by the Midland Cinema Bingo Club. 'The Alhambra' became Tipton’s last surviving cinema when 'The Bruce' in New Hall Street, closed in 1962. Sadly 'The Alhambra' closed on the 3rd August, 1963 due to declining audiences. The last film was 'Sparrows Can't Sing' starring James Booth and Barbara Windsor.

The Cinema

There was once a cinema in High Street, on the same side as the Wagon and Horses public house, just beyond Chaters Close, called 'The Cinema'. It was housed in an old school building that was converted into a cinema in 1913. It had opened by October of that year and initially seated around 450 people, which was reduced to around 300 when improved seating was installed. Around 1930 it was acquired by Fred Leatham and it remained in his family until it closed.

Audiences were often small, but the cinema remained in business until Saturday the 21st June, 1958, when the last film was shown. The site was acquired by the council and redeveloped.

The Palace

There was once a cinema in Great Bridge, on the left-hand corner of Slater Street, where a row of shops now stands. It was called 'The Palace' and was built in an old hall, believed to have been an Odd Fellows' Hall. The main hall, which could seat around 750 people,  ran alongside Great Bridge with a foyer on the corner of Slater Street and an entrance in Slater Street. Films were being shown there before the end of  1910. In the late 1920s the cinema was acquired by Cyril Joseph, who ran Storer Pictures. In 1958 the cinema was purchased by Vincent Wareing. Sadly it closed on the 16th April, 1960, at a time when there was a vast decline in cinema audiences. The last film was  'Valley Of Fury', starring Victor Mature.

From the Tipton Herald newspaper, January 1957.

The Picture House

Princes End once had a cinema in a location that seems strange today. It was in New Hall Street, off Bloomfield Road, roughly halfway between Bloomfield Road and Foundry Street, where modern houses now stand. It was called 'The Picture House' and was built in an old disused chapel. The cinema opened on the 18th November 1912 and was owned by Mr. B. T. Parsons. By the First World War, Joseph Pearson had acquired the site. An audience of 500 could be squeezed into the small hall, which became known as the 'Brew-House'. The seating was later improved and the hall could then accommodate 350 people.

Sadly the venture was unsuccessful and Joseph Pearson was declared bankrupt. Undaunted, Mr. and Mrs. Jones acquired the cinema and turned the business around. They even leased the building on Sundays to the Rev. John Young, Minister of New Hall Street Baptist Church, for talks and slide shows after evening service. BTH Sound equipment was installed and the cinema continued to be well attended. It was then purchased by Mr. MacDonald, who ran the cinema with his family.

At the beginning of 1948 it became the 'The Bruce'. Central heating was installed and the interior again redecorated. The cinema became very popular and was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Woodroffe in 1953, who again refurbished the interior. A bright future seemed certain, but the council refused to renew the license. On the 31st May, 1962, an arson attack in the house next door resulted in some damage to the cinema which was soon afterwards compulsorily purchased by the Council.

The Regent Cinema, from an old postcard.

The Tivoli

'The Tivoli' was an old market hall in Owen Street. On the 30th May, 1910, planning permission was granted for its conversion into a cinema. It was founded by Benjamin Kennedy who obtained a cinema license on the 27th July, 1910 and opened for business soon afterwards. The venture was a great success, both for films and variety performances. On the 31st January, 1916, when bombs were dropped on Tipton from a passing Zeppelin, it was recorded that 'The Tivoli' was packed to capacity.

By 1920 'The Tivoli' had been acquired by Midland Entertainments, who closed the building at the beginning of January of that year and improved the facilities. The building was extended, 1,500 tip-up seats were fitted, a new frontage was built, and the cinema reopened on Monday the 16th August, 1920 as 'The Regent'. It was officially opened by Councillor W. W. Doughty, Chairman of Tipton Urban District Council. The first film was 'The Gentlemen Riders' supported by 'The Spiral of Death'.

From about 1924, Lancashire born, Edgar Duckworth became proprietor. He had Western Electric sound equipment installed in 1930 and soon afterwards the premises was leased to Associated British Cinemas, which had been formed in 1927. Success continued and it became Tipton’s premier cinema. During the Second World War it was operated by a company from Manchester and later taken over again by Edward Duckworth and his son David.

Ross projectors and an RCA sound system were installed in 1948 and on the 28th June 1954 it became 'The New Regal Cinema'. It finally closed on Saturday the 3rd December, 1960. The last film was 'Jazz Boat', starring Anthony Newley, supported by 'Kill Her Gently'. The building was emptied and for many years was vandalised until demolition took place.

From the Tipton Herald newspaper, January 1957.

From the Tipton Herald newspaper, January 1957.

From the Tipton Herald newspaper, July 1957.

The Victoria Palace

There was a cinema in Railway Street, Horseley Heath, where a row of modern houses now stands. The cinema, called 'The Victoria Palace' was housed in an old Primitive Methodist Chapel that had been empty for some time. The Victoria opened in the middle of 1912 and was owned by local councillor and hinge manufacturer, William Wooley Doughty, J.P., who lived nearby in Horseley Heath Villa. He liked to give away Union Jack badges between the films, and during times of depression would provide the audience with tea and biscuits, and even throw handfuls of pennies into the street. The early silent films were accompanied by a woman playing the piano, while William Doughty looked-on wearing a red waistcoat and smoking a big cigar. He was a strict disciplinarian who wouldn't tolerate bad behaviour.

After his death, his estate, including 'The Victoria Palace' was left to his housekeeper Mrs. Smith. A Mr. Evans became cinema manager and Jimmy Jones played the piano. In 1932 it was sold to Mr. W. A. Webb, who refurbished the building, installed a Classitone Sound System and installed new seats, along with the first plaster of paris screen in the country. The screen had to be white-washed daily, a task given to the second projectionist, Bill Wassell, who also had to clean the intricate chandelier, once a month. The refurbished cinema opened on the 26th December, 1932, seating 300 people. Mr. Goldstein from Birmingham later became manager.

In the early 1940s it was acquired by Fred Leatham, who carried out many improvements after the war, including an extension at the rear, and an extension of the first floor at the front. The floor level was raised and the seats were set into concrete, which in later years caused the wooden supports to rot and rows of seats to collapse. On the balcony were five rows of seats and two boxes with draw curtains. The cost of a box was nine pence. The building reopened on the 14th April, 1947 and was initially very successful with queues forming outside, waiting for the doors to open. Sadly this didn't continue and so many 'X' certificate films were shown in an attempt to attract customers. The attempt failed and the cinema closed in 1955 or 1956.

In 1960 Horseley Bridge and Thomas Piggot Limited purchased the building which became a wood store. In September 1968, Horseley merged with the John Thompson organisation at Ettingshall. The building became derelict with the closure of the Thompson Group and has since been demolished and replaced by housing.

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