IN 1939 Warrington was home to 11 cinemas, including the Star, the Regent, the Empire and the Odeon.

Another one of the many cinemas was the Ritz. Union cinemas opened it on the August 23, 1937. At the time of construction a board stated that the cinema would hold 2,000 people.

The opening ceremony was performed by the mayor John Turner Cooper. The opening attraction was 'Without Orders' and 'I Promise to Pay'. There were several dressing rooms back stage and apart from the opening film there was a stage show with Macari and his Dutch Accordian Serenaders.

A 3 manuel/6 Rank organ with a Melotone attachment and illuminated console was a feature. This was played at the opening by organist Alex Taylor. Before or after the show cinemagoers could enjoy a meal at the cinema's cafe.

The first people to manage the cinema were a Mr Gerald James and T Kemp. Others include Albert Sidi, who in 1956 was champion manager of the ABC circuit, assistant manager Alan Peel was there in the 1960s, and writer of the book Picture Palaces of Liverpool Harold Ackroyd was also manager there.

Union cinemas had Saturday morning shows called the 'Chums Club' of which Shirley Temple was president. In 1937 there were over 100,000 members.

It didn't remain a Union cinema for long because Union cinemas were taken over by ABC in October 1937. The Warrington cinema was just called ABC from 1958.

The cinema celebrated its first 15 years of screening movies in 1952, organised by the manager Robert Parsons, which included a thirty pound cake, an organ recital by organist Arthur Lord and a spectacular stage show with a local dancing school, presenting Dancing Through the Years (1937 to 1952). Following this, people who were celebrating a birthday or wedding anniversary that day were given a piece of the two tier cake and the audience singing Happy Birthday to You. When film star Anna Neagle came to Manchester she recorded a birthday message for Ritz patrons and this was played back after each stage show.

During the Second World War a number of Sunday concerts were staged, including The RAF band Squadronaires.

The Ritz in Warrington

The Ritz in Warrington

Up in the spacious operating box there were two Simplex projectors with Western Electric sound, two Stellmar spotlights and a slide lantern. In 1954 the Simplex machines were donated to the Royal Navy and were replaced by Westar machines, which stood on the Simplex bases. A Mr Gordon Hamilton was the chief operator In 1942 and in the 1960s the chief operator was a Mr. David Edwards. His wife Rose also operated there. She had been trained by Gordon Hamilton. Later a Mr Dennis Cummings and Mr John Forster were operators. The projection area had a large rewind room and a spacious staff room, allowing the operators to rest. Access to the projection area was at the back of the balcony and from an outside door, where films were left and picked up by Film Transport Service, (FTS).

On August 19, 1972 the building underwent a conversion into bingo and cinema. The stalls area became bingo and the balcony area became a 474 seat cinema. These opened on December 7, 1972. The cafe area was also converted and a 90 seat video cinema opened in November 1980. I am told this wasn't very good. Two years later on October 23, 1982 the cinemas closed. Soon after, bingo also ceased.

Inside the Ritz

Inside the Ritz

The original stalls became a night spot called Mr Smith's. In March 2008 it became the Halo nightclub and the upstairs cinema areas were also used for this. This closed in 2010. Plans were under way to renovate the building in 2015 and use it as a youth club.

The building was damaged by fire in the early hours of April 14, 2015. The building sadly had to be demolished.