The Picture House/ Savoy, Boscombe

The Picture House stood in Christchurch Road Boscombe and was the first purpose built cinema to close, in the Bournemouth area. Others would soon follow but this I suspect is an almost forgotten cinema which opened as a silent picture house later converted to sound. It soon after was pretty much destroyed by a disastrous nitrate fire. It was rebuilt and continued on until 27th September 1958 when it bowed out, unsung, with a final show consisting of 'The Lone Ranger' starring Clayton Moore as the masked man himself and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. A big screen spin off of the then very popular TV series. The supporting feature was 'The Flame Barrier' starring Arthur Franz.

The Picture House opened in 1914, probably on Monday January 19th with the film 'Between Man and Beast' plus 'His Inspiration'. On Wednesday of that week there was an invitation only matinee when the Mayor and Corporation attended.

A typical programme on January 6th 1921 comprised of 'Forest on the Hill' starring Alma Taylor and Gerald Ames plus part 6 of 'Round the World for a Wager', 'appropriate music by the theatre orchestra.

The cinema closed for refurbishment in 1930 sound equipment would have been installed at this time. It reopened as the Savoy on July 14th of that year with the film 'The Great Gabbo' an early sound film musical drama, starring Eric von Stroheim and Betty Compson plus Olive Borden in 'Clipped Wings' also British Movietone News.

Unfortunately on August 18th there was a nitrate fire in the projection box, soon after the start of an afternoon matinee, which took off the roof of the building and destroyed the interior. The booked programme for that week consisted of Jack Holt and Ralph Graves in the 1929 Frank Capra Film 'Flight'.. plus Mickey Mouse in 'The Haunted House'. Nobody was injured, all got out safely but huge crowds gathered outside to witness the blaze.

Incredibly the cinema reopened on 24TH December 1930 with the Harold Lloyd film 'Welcome Danger' supported by 'A Holiday in Story Land', a musical short featuring the Three Gumm Sisters one of whom was Judy Garland making an early appearance. Items in the local press were almost apologetic at the delay stating that rebuilding had been delayed due to insurance claims difficulties. Messrs. Jenkins of Holdenhurst Road carried out the work.

The cinema frontage was left intact during the fire so it looked as if not much had changed. Actually considerable changes had been made in the rebuild of the auditorium the main one being the new roof, which was flat unlike the original which was concave. It was said at the time to have been done in order to improve the acoustics, maybe it did, or maybe it was a cheaper option than replacing like for like. It was said to have been constructed of steel and Old Trafford asbestos with a fire resistant material used on the internal ceiling. The balcony incorporated fire proof slab flooring and the seating had been increased. Clearly the management were taking all precautions against another fire. The projection box had been rebuilt and now conformed to all local fire regulations. A contemporary description of the new interior indicated that no expense had been spared in that area. It had been completely redecorated by Maple & Co of London. The walls were painted pale orange and cream with woodwork of green and silver. The doors and windows were shielded by velour curtains of the same colour. The proscenium curtains were grey and coloured lights could be played on the interior during intervals.

The Savoy seems to have had an uneventful life up to closure. The 1951 Kine year book quotes the Seating as 760 and that it was operated by M&O Theatres, a joint venture between London impresario Frank Okin and Lou Morris, who owned a small chain of theatres including the Ritz at Stockwell, in south London and the County at Sudbury, Suffolk.

After the cinema was demolished it was replaced with a flat roofed brick building which was taken on by Fine Fare as an addition to that company’s chain of supermarkets. Later it was occupied by Marks and Spencer as an extension to their premises next door. In 2016 the conjoined building is occupied by Primark.

I have been unable to locate any clear pictures of this cinema. If anyone knows of any I would be delighted to hear from them.

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