The Continental Cinema, Winton

The Continental Cinema closed in 1989 and was quickly demolished. It didn't always have that name. Opened in 1908 as the Assembly Rooms it was by 1911 called Winton Hall and was certainly showing films by that time. Later still, date unknown, it had been renamed the Winton Electric Palace. There was a lot of housing development at this time particularly at Stoke Wood nearby and Winton would of course soon be absorbed into fast expanding Bournemouth.

By 1928 when it closed for renovations it was advertised simply as Winton Electric.It reopened as The Palace and the opening film was a silent Fox release 'East Side West Side' starring George O'Brian and Virginia Valli. This was the same year that the Victoria cinema opened right on the border between Winton and Moordown, another fast expanding suburb, and only about one mile from Winton Banks. Competition had arrived in the area.

Harry Mears took control in 1929 and it was then renamed the Plaza. Could be that the ubiquitous Kalee 8 machines were installed at this time, the cinema certainly had such machines in operation right up until Westars from the Roxy in Holdenhurst Road were installed. The Roxy closed in 1963 but it was some years before the projectors were removed. The Westars were in daily use right up until closure. Both Westar machines were converted to take 6000' spools but still retained Peerless 'Magnarc' lanterns and carbons.

The change to the name Continental came in the 1950's. Harry Mear's Continental actually for he had another cinema at Fishermans Walk called the Palladium which he had renamed Classic and then promptly had a run in with Capital and Provincial News theatres who owned the Classic chain of cinemas nationwide. He got away with it as long as he advertised it as Harry Mear's Classic. Incidentally, all film booking for the Classic was done at the Continental. So classic films in one and continental films in the other that was the idea I suppose.

The Continental did embark on a period of showing exclusive continental and subtitled films, it was a way around the system of barring which afflicted so many small independent cinemas, as the major circuits rarely if ever wanted to exhibit this type of film. Where is the dividing line between certain erotic foreign art house films and soft porn? Thus it was that the Continental started to gain a reputation that stayed with it until closure. For a number of years it did exhibit heavily cut sex film double bills, had to show two to make up the programme. These could be of continental origin or from the West Coast of the USA. This was not Harry Mears doing but of individuals who leased the cinema in its later years. Even they had periods when they booked family films. A longish run of Ghostbusters sticks in the memory.

Also in its later years the ornate cupola atop the tower was deemed to be unsafe, it probably was. It always looked a bit precarious to me. Pity it couldn't have been repaired the building was never the same after it was taken down particularly as the metalwork supporting the queuing shelter outside the building which extended across the front and down the side of the building was also on its last legs or missing altogether.

Site lines were extremely good as was the picture and sound. The brightness of the picture was helped by the highly reflective silver screen, in later years.

The last lessee of the cinema was Jack Southern and it was he who installed the electric organ which was used weekly at a dedicated organ concert which attracted such organists as Ena Barga late of Granada Theatres and Nigel Ogden. Unfortunately these organ concerts were not always well attended.

The cinema closed suddenly in 1989 despite protests from the lessee and was very quickly demolished only for the cleared site to remain undeveloped for a number of years. In the end Alma Road was slightly realigned, the gents' toilet and phone boxes removed and a public house called the Hop and Kilderkin built on the site.

All text and pictures in this article copyright John Thornley, Bob Dobson and others where credited.

Bournemouth Cinemas

The Continental Cinema, Winton

The Picture House/Savoy, Boscombe

The Ritz Cinema, Winton

The Astoria, Pokesdown

The Embassy/Palladium/ Classic, Fisherman's Walk, Southbourne

THE Roxy, Holdenhurst Road, Springbourne

The Regal, Parkstone