Re-live the magical moment when a new art deco Hartlepool picture house opened

The cinema which became the Odeon nine years after it first opened.
The cinema which became the Odeon nine years after it first opened.

Eighty-two years ago today, a new Hartlepool era dawned.

It had Fred Astaire in it. It had Ginger Rogers in it.

The advert which promoted the new cinema in the Northern Daily Mail.

The advert which promoted the new cinema in the Northern Daily Mail.

And to explain more, it was the beginning of a cinema which most of you know as the Odeon.

Today, with the help of the excellent research team at the Central Library, we take a look back to how it all started for the cinema.

It is yet another example of the superb information, on most aspects of Hartlepool life, which is available to view at the library in York Road.

It was July 27, 1936, when Hartlepool officially said hello to its newest social attraction.

Picture-goers will immediately realise the benefit of the projection at the Majestic by the fact that their eyes will feel no sign of fatigue throughout the performance and there will be no resultant eye-strain

Northern Daily Mail report, 1936

But back then, it wasn’t known as the Odeon. It was the Majestic and it was the latest in cinematic experiences.

There was a huge advert in the Mail to promote it, and it said: “The Majestic is the latest and most remarkable addition to the Hartlepools’ houses of entertainment. To fulfil this gigantic undertaking, neither time nor money has been spared in securing the most scientific knowledge and finest engineering skill, and the expert craftsmanship by which the theatre has been completed has left nothing to be desired.”

The advert described an auditorium fit for 1,558 people with 1,110 in the stalls and 448 in the circle.

“The seats are of the very latest type,” said the report.

They were designed to “give the maximum of comfort, and the carpets and appointments of the cinema generally are on the most modern lines, in keeping with the importance of the theatre.”

Even the exits got a mention - because they were so good, they could get everyone out in two minutes - comfortably.

And if it was that good, it needed a film to match the occasion.

Hartlepool had it.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were starring in Follow The Fleet which was described as “a rollicking story with any amount of action.”

Big audiences were expected for a show which had three screenings a day - the 2.15pm matinee, and the 6.15pm and 8.30pm evening slots. To cope with demand, the box office planned to open at 11am each day.

And if Follow The Fleet didn’t grab you, how about Whipsaw, Robin Hood of El Dorado, or Arms And The Girl. They were all on the way.

But what were your memories of the old picture houses in Hartlepool? Which was your favourite cinema and which films do you remember seeing there?

Remember the usherettes, adverts (and the music which accompanied them), ice cream sellers? Share your own experiences about those magical bygone days.

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk. And we’ll have more on the Odeon next week.