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Times of Change

For many of the older cinemas the first two decades of the talkies (the 30's and 40's) was a time of immense change. If we now consider those cinemas in turn and some of those changes.

The Olympia remained Under the control of the Quigley family until early in 1939 and so it was James Quigley who oversaw the introduction of sound to the cinema in 1930. The cinema was very fortunate to employ the services of one of the most outstanding of local operators, Harry Poncherry. The cinema was leased to C.S. Joseph and his Pine Pictures Company in 1939. After the war, the cinema began to concentrate much of its effort on the provision of Continental films (an idea of the cinema's then manager, Charles Kettle).

The talkies arrived at the West End cinema in Whitmore Reans on April 13th 1930, although an orchestra was reintroduced to the cinema on Friday nights in 1933. The cinema was regularly leased to various people, including a colourful character named Capt. Bert Riego who was especially remembered for his Saturday afternoon matinees for children. The cinema was also the regular venue of the Wolverhampton Film Society. During the war the West End became the property of O.G. Pictures (a company which was under the control of Messrs. Oakey & Godsall).

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The Rex, before demolition.

The company introduced an organ to the cinema which was played by Arthur Collett, one of the most popular of local musicians.On Sunday January 16th 1944, the cinema changed its name to the Park. The new name was almost certainly a product of the cinema's proximity to the West Park. The cinema was to remain open as the Park for just three years and in July 1947, it closed. One month later the cinema again re-opened, this time with its fourth name, the Rex. The official re-opening took place on August 10th 1947. The local press referred to the cinema as the Little Super Cinema in Whitmore Reans. There had been some refurbishment and a new RCA sound system was in place. The first film at the new cinema was 'Kismet' starring Ronald Coleman (a good choice for the cinema in Coleman Street) and Marlene Deitrich.

The Coliseum, which had become the property of the Quigley family in 1930, underwent a major refurbishment before it re-opened on November 24th 1930. The first film was 'Gold Diggers of Broadway' (the film which included the song Tiptoe Through the Tulips). The sound system was by Western Electric.

Madge Quigley, the daughter of the family, personally supervised the cinema for much of the 1930's but after her marriage, she decided it was probably in the best interests of the cinema to lease it to Pine Pictures (like the other of the Quigley cinemas, the Olympia). The owner of Pine Pictures was C.S. Joseph and he decided to make a very strenuous effort to increase the audiences at the Coliseum.

As a result, the cinema witnessed a number of publicity stunts, like the issuing of handkerchiefs to the first fifty female patrons who entered the cinema to see the weepie called the 'White Rose'. It is interesting that the cinema was managed by a woman throughout the 30's and 40's (Madge Quigley and then Eleanor Webster).

The Scala followed a very uneventful life throughout the period. It could depend on the circuit system to keep it in operation and also, to a degree, the existence of a fairly static local population. The cinema which may have been most affected by the coming of the talkies and the super cinema was possibly the Queen's.

It had an unassailable position as the town's premier cinema throughout the 1920's, but not for much longer. However, it still managed to keep a respectable size of audience, even after the building of the town centre super cinemas. Some people regarded the Queen's as the only authentic cinema in the town!

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The interior of the Queen's Picture House.

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The Carlton.

Captain Cresswell, the owner of the Globe in Horseley Fields, decided to sell the cinema in 1937 and it was bought by a Mr. Hawtin who came from Cannock. He carried out a number of quite significant changes, including the laying of a large car park at the rear of the cinema which ran from Mary Ann Street to Gough Street. During the war, the Globe and the West End were owned by the same people.

During the war the Globe was quite successful although it closed on two occasions. After the second closure, the cinema re-opened as the Carlton on Sunday November 14th 1943. It was owned by Norman Burton from Walsall. The first film to be shown at the new cinema was 'International Squadron' starring the future President of the USA, Ronald Reagan

The new owner was very serious about his cinema, and after the war, he began improving its general appearance. He introduced neon lighting for the sign Carlton and new seating. However, its position in Horseley Fields meant that few people from other areas of the town went to the cinema. A very unfair product for so much hard work.

The Theatre Royal was involved in an interesting set of arrangements with the Savoy, both during the super cinema's building and immediately afterwards. While the new cinema was being built, the Theatre Royal was leased to the ABC circuit and afterwards it returned to the Clifton circuit. It was not until September 18th 1948 that the Theatre Royal actually became the Clifton.

The Ideal continued showing silent films in Wednesfield for some years after the coming of talkies. It was not until the latter part of the 30's that the cinema was rebuilt, refurbished and had sound installed. The new Ideal was turned around with the screen at the canal end of the cinema and the entrance at the road end. It still held a similar capacity of 350 people. The owner of the cinema, John France, died during the rebuilding programme and his executors sold the cinema. It ultimately became the property of a Solihull wastepaper merchant named William Severn who was a devotee of cinema. He kept the previous manager, Joe Pursehouse, in post. Despite the existence of the neighbouring, and much larger cinema, the Regal, the Ideal was still able to function quite successfully.

The Regal continued to enjoy local success throughout the period, including during the war when the cinema was used for a number of concerts, including a pantomime. The concerts were charity occasions. The cinema's success was to continue beyond the war, mainly as a product of the affection and loyalty of the local population to their cinema.

In Bilston there were a number of changes. The Alhambra's lease ended for the Wood family in 1927 and the cinema passed through a number of hands, including Mr. Hawtin, the owner of the Globe in Horseley Fields. Throughout the 1940's there was constant change of ownership for the cinema.

Wood's Palace was definitely one of the area's most impressive cinemas of the silent era, including the possession of the largest cinema screen. The arrival of the talkies was seized on by Thomas Wood as an -opportunity for development. Sound was installed and the general acoustics improved. In 1933 the Palace held a twelfth birthday party, showing the 'Good Companions' and parading its new refurbished interior. Finally in 1936, with Thomas Wood heavily involved in local politics, the cinema was leased to C.S. Joseph. From September 1936, it became the Palace cinema. Ultimately the Palace became part of the Odeon circuit and enjoyed a very successful wartime period as the Odeon. It was always regarded as the principal cinema in Bilston.

The Savoy was also leased to C.S. Joseph who ran the cinema for 21 years.

 

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