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Film was bought by travellers, usually clips of no longer than 10 minutes, and shown in booths at the August Wakes. But more permanent venues where films were shown were the Peoples Hall above the Co-Operative Society's Station Street building, and the Lyceum (later known as the Palace) in Queen Street.
The Lyceum was opened in 1897 and constructed from corrugated iron. It was a proper theatre with tip up seats and boxes. An advertisement of 1905 tells us that on Monday 16th October, prices to see a theatre production were: side boxes 2/- each seat, stalls 1/- and 1/6d, balcony 9d, pit 6d. After a couple periods of closure in 1906, the theatre re-opened as the Palace on 25th November 1907. In June 1910, a picture drama "The Egyptian Maid" was being shown, along with five other titles and a live juggler, seat prices costing: 2d, 4d, 6d and 9d. By 1912, films were the main fare and in November of that year a New Palace was being built in the Market Place. The old building, known affectionately as "The Tin Trunk" was sold, and used for many years as a garage. In its heyday, the Tin Trunk had competition from Vint's Picturedrome on Derby Road, and the Picture House, previously known as the Alexandra Rink.
The New Palace opened on July 3rd 1913 and soon became known as "the little theatre with the big reputation". With around 830 seats it wasn't the largest theatre, but its Market Place position made it a prominent venue at the time and in 1919 seat prices rose: front seats 4d, other seats were 6d and 7d. The circle was 1/- and if booked beforehand, 1/3d.
In 1922 the Palace had a Grand Orchestral Pipe Organ installed, and continued bookings of silent films even after "Talkies" arrived in Britain around 1929. The last silent to be shown was on April 11th 1931. The Palace was then fitted out with the "Western Electric Sound System" and was refurbished, re-opening on Monday 4th May. In 1936 the Palace underwent complete modernisation, being extended by 30 feet at the rear, and re-opening on Monday 19th October 1936. With the arrival of television in the 1950s, cinema gradually became less popular. A Panoramic screen was fitted in the late 1950s, bringing fresh interest to cinemagoers.
Star Cinemas, based in Leeds, took over the Palace in 1965 and once again the building was completely modernised and re-opened on March 22nd as the Ritz. Star Cinemas continued to run the Ritz until 1977 when Mr. Andrew Boulton took over. By now, it was the only remaining cinema in Long Eaton. It was closed again in 1983, and the building was converted into a smaller cinema with 270 seats and a slightly smaller screen. A new Dolby sound system was installed and the cinema was renamed as The Screen. After a short delay, it opened on Thursday September 15th 1983. The Screen ran until the mid 1990s, but the arrival of the new multiscreen cinemas in Nottingham and Derby finally sounded the death knell of cinema in Long Eaton.
St James' Theatre Derby Road, opened on Thursday August 29th 1907, by April 1910 it had become a Picture Palace. From September it was leased to the Leon Vint Organisation, and re-opened as Vint's New Picturedrome. Renovated fully in 1913, the Picturedrome continued to be successful. By 1916 however, it had become the Coliseum under a new lease, and began to host Variety shows and Vaudeville. 1923 saw the Coliseum close, only to open again as the New Scala on August 6th of that year, by showing the film "The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse". Seats cost: circle 1/3d, stalls 1/-, pit 6d, gallery 4d. The Scala was the first cinema in Long Eaton to install a sound system and began showing "Talkies" from Monday October 24th 1929. Sadly the Scala was gutted by fire in 1934. Messrs. F. Perks, a local building firm, cleared the debris in 1935 and like the mythical Phoenix, the Scala II rose from the ashes of the old - so to speak. It opened on July 1st 1935.
Like many of the Long Eaton cinemas, the Scala helped the war effort by fund raising and morale boosting. In spite of the installation of a larger Panoramic screen in 1955, and an even bigger screen in 1956, the Scala, like so many cinemas at that time, struggled for survival. By October 1960, wrestling, live shows and pop groups were added attractions. "Lassie's Great Adventure" was the last film to be shown here on Saturday July 25th. Within a week, the Scala had been transformed into the "Thurland Bingo Club". It continued as a Bingo Hall until the 1990s, when it was finally closed. Fire once again took hold on the empty building. Its burned out shell stood for a number of years. On the evening of Friday January 5th 2007 the former Silverline Bingo Hall on Derby Road re-opened as a new Galaxy Cinema. This was the first cinema in the town for more than 20 years. The project took five years for its then owner Mr Asif Sahil to complete. The cinema is now under new management.
In the early 1900s, there was a great interest in roller-skating. The Alexandra Rink on the corner of Broad Street and Albert Road, opened on Saturday April 3rd 1910. For around 18 months it was a successful venture, but the number of skaters declined and gradually the rink was used for other purposes.
By November 1912, the building was undergoing alterations and opened as The Picture House on Saturday December 14th. 1916 saw a change of ownership and a change of name to The Cinema. It was well established by October 1917, but in November it was announced the Cinema had been taken over by an engineering firm, due to the war. The building was eventually acquired by Wade Springs and Upholstery Company in 1951, and remained so until it was destroyed by fire in 1971.
On Thursday August 1st 1920, the Empire cinema opened, showing "God's Good Man" and "Roaring River". Seats were priced at: boxes 2/- each seat, circle 1/-, fauteilles (whatever they were) 9d, stalls 6d and pit stalls 4d. There was room in the pit and circle for over 1,000 people. It included the Empire Cafe and a large room for private parties or Billiards. For some reason though, the Empire was not successful and closed on Saturday April 5th 1924. Five months later, under new management, the Empire re-opened.
Live acts would occasionally be engaged as an alternative to films. "Talkies" arrived on May 12th 1930 with "King Of The Khyber Rifles". 1954-5 brought the Panoramic screens. The first Cinemascope film shown in Long Eaton was "The Kentuckian" with Burt Lancaster. Although successful for many years, the Empire was too large to be viable and closed on October 15th 1960 with Charlie Drake and "Sands Of The Desert". Although several youths were searched for fireworks before being allowed in, many were sent out after several explosions during the evening, so the second half of the film played to an almost empty cinema. Vandalism caused the closure of many cinemas during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Empire was demolished to build a new Tesco supermarket. This was eventually replaced by "Preedy" and currently a W.H. Smith's store occupies the site.