Cinema back in Penarth after 41 years
9:02am Thursday 31st October 2013 in Letters
I WAS delighted to be one of the 70-or-so audience who attended a special showing of the splendid recent British film “Submarine” at the recently refurbished Penarth Pier Pavilion Cinema.
The enjoyable event also featured a live appearance by Joe Dunthorne, author of the book on which the film was based, and was organised as part of the second Penarth Book Festival.
My delight was further intensified by the fact that this film was being shown in the opening weeks of the new cinema, which is the first one in Penarth that I am aware of since the last one closed in 1972, namely the art deco Washington Cinema in Stanwell Road.
This was the long overdue return of cinema to Penarth after an interval of some 41 years. I have had a long-standing interest in the rich history of cinema in Penarth. I have been carrying out research into the old microfilmed editions of the Penarth Times held at Penarth Library, back to the first cinema opened in Glebe Street by the Willmore Brothers in December 1910.
A more intriguing fact to emerge from this research is that the present Penarth Pier Pavilion Cinema is not the first to have occupied this very same Pavilion site. The restored Pier Pavilion was opened in 1929, and the local council initially struggled to find a proper use for this structure, to the extent that, by 1932, it was widely regarded as being a “white elephant” and a massive encumbrance to the local ratepayers.
Then on Easter Monday (March 28) 1932, it was opened as the Penarth Pier Pavilion Cinema with great fanfare. The first features were the little-remembered 'Bad Girl' with James Dunne & Sally Eilers, and 'Two Crowded Hours' with Jerry Verno, John Longden & Michael Powell. Sidney Cooper Junior was the Manager, F Norman Wright was the Managing Director. They promised to present 2a programme equal to any leading London cinema".
In May the open air Pier Café was opened with cinema patrons being admitted free to the Pier. In the coming months classics such as 'Monkey Business' with the Marx Brothers, and 'Frankenstein' with Colin Clive and an uncredited Boris Karloff were shown.
Within 8 months, the Penarth Times announced the closure of the Pavilion in November 1932, for alterations to be made including new carpets and the installation of a new heating system.
The Pier Pavilion was eventually re-opened for the season on April 10 1933, with continuous performances and a new manager Mr George Jenkins, and was advertised as "the coolest cinema in town".
Maybe, but not it seems popular enough, because after a showing on Saturday evening on June 24 1933 of 'Call Her Savage' with Clara Bow, and 'Six Cylinder Love' with Spencer Tracy, the cinema closed its doors for the last time, and the staff were dismissed.
According to a Penarth Times report at the time, this was on account of certain actions taken by the District Council "somewhat precipitate, we think".
Despite attendances not coming up to expectations since the re-opening, and the management being faced with heavy deficits, they had hoped to continue for the next few months, but to no effect. These difficulties were probably not helped by the fact there was already a well-established and flourishing Windsor Kinema in nearby Windsor Road, active since 1911.That was joined by the new Regal Cinema in the Paget Rooms opened in September 1932, which managed to survive until 1940.
So in short, the re-opening of the Penarth Pier Pavilion Cinema in October 2013, with a showing of the very appropriate Italian classic 'Cinema Paradiso' has been the second incarnation, 81 years after the opening of the original cinema in 1932, and just over 80 years after its premature closure.
So good to have cinema back in Penarth after 41 years, to add another chapter of the rich cinema heritage in the town, and I sincerely hope it survives rather more than the year of its predecessor. But that will depend on cinema-goers giving it more support than the original Penarth Pier Pavilion Cinema!