When a night at the pictures in Hartlepool was two shillings and sixpence

There's no doubting the excitement which filled the air as the Majestic got ready to open.

Friday, 3rd August 2018, 12:34 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd August 2018, 12:38 pm

Today, we continue our look at its early days thanks to help from the team at the Central library.

Workmen were still putting the finishing touches to the building right up to the last minute – which was 11am on a Monday morning.

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

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That’s when the first film goers arrived at Hartlepool’s newest cinema and it wasn’t just a Fred Astaire film that the first 1,600 patrons were going to see. There was a supporting programme including the latest British Movietone News.

Fred and Ginger were the big hit in a film described by critics as “an enthralling story of sailors and girls when the fleet’s in.”

It was a musical extravaganza with Fred belting out numbers such as We Saw The Sea and Ginger getting in on the act with Let Yourself Go.

They lapped it up and the picture house was a winner. It spent the first nine years of its life known as the Majestic until it became the Odeon in 1945.

The cinema was built to the highest standards and it had a fireproof chamber where the projection equipment worked. There was temperature control for the extremes of winter and summer and the manager was top-class as well.

He was Harry Watson who “had long experience of cinema management in Nottingham, Cardiff and Middlesbrough.

“He had the reputation of a manager who by his courteous conduct and pleasing personality, creates good feeling among all classes of patrons,” said the Northern Daily Mail.

A good manager, good temperature control – and the acoustics to match. The soundtrack could be heard from any part of the auditorium. And when the Mail’s reporter went along to sample the opening show, they were impressed.

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

“The proprietors are to be commended for their efforts to provide the town with a first class cinema,” said the report. “The Majestic is all – and more – than its sponsors claimed it would be.

“And if the large houses at all performances yesterday may be taken as a criterion, the popularity of this new place of entertainment is assured.

“A quality that will be widely appreciated results from the attention obviously paid to acoustics.”

There were nods of approval for the lack of muffled noises or blurred dialogue. By 1945, tickets were 10 pence through to two shillings and sixpence.

Within seven years, the cost had shot up ... the cheap seats at one and sixpence, or the full Odeon experience at three shillings and a penny.

But the best days of the picture house were behind it. The 1970s brought with them a massive downturn in cinema audiences and by October 24, 1981, the Odeon was shut.

It reopened as a bingo hall and then had a period as a nightclub called Caesars Palace.

It became a Grade 2 listed building in 1992.