The Ritz Cinema, Forest Hall

The ice cream boy was clad from top to toe in white.

 

The opening of the Ritz Cinema, Forest Hall on Monday November 11th 1936 was a glittering occasion. The enormous white building was floodlit. The staff in their ultra-smart uniforms were lined on the front steps awaiting the arrival of the guests of honour, Councillor M.L. March J.P. Chairman of Longbenton U.D.C., Lord Westwood and Mr. E.J. Hinge, directors.

The majestic commissionaire stood in full uniform with gold braid and brass buttons. The usherettes wore dark uniforms with gold trimmings at neck and cuffs and black high heeled shoes. The ice cream boy, John Morris, was clad from top to toe in white. The manager, Mr. Jack Brown, in full evening dress stood quietly behind his staff to greet the guests. Children in the area had dashed to get an early place in the queue.

After the opening speeches from the cinema stage, Mr. Brown signalled the projection booth to roll the film. This brought a roar of applause from the youngsters. The dark blue velvet curtains behind him swept open to the music ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. This was to happen twice nightly before each showing. Then they all settled down while the projectionist, Jack Adamson, set to work and Laurel and Hardy gave their all to the first showing of “The Bohemian Girl”.

The cinema staff working on that opening night included:

Manager: Mr J.H. Brown

Projectionist: Jack Adamson

Projectionist Assistant: Jack Daglish

Commissionaire: ‘Cobbler’ Wood

Cashier: Mrs Adamson

Confectioner: Jean Taylor

Usherettes: Mary Barras, Vera Callaghan, Ivy Craig,
Gladys Mason & Doris Taylor

Ice cream: Jack Morris

Box office successes at the Ritz included “Kings Row” 1941 starring Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan and “The Greatest Show on Earth” 1952 starring Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde and Charlton Heston. These films were 100% successful, ensuring 6 full houses for 3 nights.

The Ritz tea room, furnished with gold wicker chairs and glass topped tables and the confectionery kiosk were not so successful due to war time rationing. Ingredients for cakes and scones were precious commodities. Cinema patrons queued early with their sweet coupons in the hope of buying refreshments. Two coupons were presented for a quarter pound of sweets, but it was not long before supplies were exhausted.

Occasionally the cinema was hired by local operatic and dramatic groups for annual performances. Owen Brannigan appeared in a local concert for soldiers during the war. Forest Hall Secondary School, now Ivy Road Primary, held its Speech Days at the Ritz from 1955 to 1960.

Mr. & Mrs. Brown continued working at the Ritz when it converted to Bingo in 1961. They retired when Mr. Brown was 72 years old and his wife was 70. Summing up, Mrs. Brown who still lives in the area said “I enjoyed every minute of it. It had its headaches and its ups and downs, but I was always glad to come to the cinema.” One of the downs incidentally was one night during the war when she returned to her home after work to find it considerably damaged by air raids.

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