The Ritz Cinema, Winton

Opened on the 22nd January 1927 as the Victoria Super Cinema its entrance was incorporated in the newly constructed Victoria Parade of shops which was development by local solicitor Thomas Rowley, who was also responsible for the construction of the Talbot Parade of shops further up Wimborne Road towards Winton. The architect was E deWilde Holding who designed a number of cinemas in the south at this time and later into the 1930's, including the much larger Moderne on the opposite side of the road.

Free complimentary tickets were available for the first afternoon showing… 400 being available at the door from 2pm. The first film presented was the silent feature 'The Love Thief' starring Norman Kerry and Greta Nissen. The later matinee and evening shows were at normal prices….8d, 1/- and 1/3 in the stalls and 1/6 in the balcony. Although information is scanty it would seem that the projection equipment consisted of front shutter Kalee 8 projectors which were used in conjunction with Western Electric sound bases. 1927 was the year that the 'Jazz Singer' was released and 1928 saw further Warner Brothers releases…Al Jolson again in the 'Singing Fool' and the thriller 'Lights of New York'. So the Victoria was right on the cusp of the sound era when it opened, so if it started as a silent hall it pretty soon changed over to sound, probably in the year after it opened. In 1932 The Western Electric Company issued a brochure containing the names of cinemas in the UK that had installed their equipment the Victoria is listed as having Western Electric bases with sound on disc attachments. Sound on disc didn't last very long, about four years until 1931. The theatre must have had another expensive upgrade to WE's 1A sound on film attachments around that time.

The Western Electric sound bases were still in use when the cinema closed, the Kalee 8's lasted until the installation of Cinemascope in the 1950's.

The auditorium was of its time with a curved ceiling decorated with pattern book (bought in) decorative plaster work. Most of which was in situ when the building was demolished.

The entrance was through the shopping parade and contrary to some webcasts the screen was at the far end of the auditorium. The picture below taken at the rear of the cinema clearly shows the horn chamber, the windows would have been a later addition when the cinema was converted to a warehouse. If this chamber was part of the original build it indicates that the cinema was constructed with sound films in mind.

The original pay box was right at the front of the entrance almost on the pavement. It was later moved back into the entrance foyer after complaints from staff of the freezing conditions in the winter months.

At some stage the building was acquired by Portsmouth Town Cinemas who also operated the nearby Moderne. Both of these buildings were built speculatively. It wasn't at all unusual for developers to sell or lease cinemas to exhibition chains after completion.

The building was requisitioned when war broke out and used as an ARP store. Bad luck really as it missed out on the bumper attendances other cinemas experienced during the war years. After a few years of good attendances after the war it was all downhill, the poor old Ritz wasn't handed back until the decline had started in 1948.It did, however, get a rather belated refurbishment when it closed for some time in 1950, reopening in October of that year with a bang up to date British comedy 'Tony Draws a Horse' starring Cecil Parker and Anne Crawford. One of the co-stars Derek Bond put in a personal appearance on the day. Directed by John Paddy Carstairs, the editor was Gerald Thomas who later went on to produce The Carry On films.

The 'Starlight' evenings became popular as cinema attendances dwindled. Amateur talent nights was what they were and a small stage was erected in front of the proscenium for the purpose. While we are down at the screen end it is worth mentioning that due to the design of the building, it was always prone to a certain amount of flooding in that area at times of heavy rain.

An upgrade to CinemaScope came in 1955, at which time it was thought that the old Kalee 8 projectors were replaced with Kalee 12’s. Bert Linham who worked at the Ritz in the early 1950’s states that the Kalee 12’s were installed before the arrival of CinemaScope. We’re still of the opinion that the two Kalee 8’s in our possession came from the Ritz, date of replacement unknown. The Kalee 12’s on Universal bases with Regal arc lamps were still in use at closure. Many small cinemas were closing at this time indeed even the mighty Rank Organisation had closed a clutch of Odeons in 1955. These closures were of course down to slumping attendance figures particularly when ITV started up and people preferred to watch their TVs rather than turn out to see a film. They were also due in the Ritz's case to the iniquitous entertainment tax levied on each cinema ticket designed to help the British film production industry but succeeding only in reducing impoverished cinemas into premature closure.

The last film shown at the Ritz was the Norman Wisdom film 'One Good Turn'(1955) coupled with 'Who Done It'(1956) starring Benny Hill (in his first film role) and Belinda Lee. The last week saw a change of programme every day. Colin Mundy was a projectionist at the Moderne and he was called upon to do relief work at the Ritz in the final week and remembers that as soon as the closure was announced, most of the staff quickly left. Also according to Colin the prints were in such appalling condition that it was quite an achievement to show them at all. There was the inevitable vandalism on the last night with all sorts of projectiles thrown up into the projection beam. The toilets were wrecked leading to water running through the stalls, a sad end to a largely forgotten cinema.

The Ritz remained boarded up for many years until it was converted into a Calor Gas showroom and storage building. The new owner told of the day he entered the building for the first and found the pay box intact complete with tickets still in the issuing machine. The balcony must have been removed at that time as the auditorium at demolition had a levelled stalls floor and industrial shelving on two levels. Later it was taken over by Bristol Street Group as a Rover spare parts centre. Not much future there then!

Demolition started in January 2007 and a combination of flats and houses now stand on the site. The entrance foyer on Wimborne Road survives as an antique shop and conversion to this purpose revealed the original columns which graced the entrance to the cinema.

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