Woolton Picture House over the decades from fires to Xmas queues

Woolton Picture House over the decades from fires to Xmas queues

Woolton Picture House has held a special place in our hearts since it first opened its doors in 1927.

On Friday, the owners of Woolton Picture House which is the oldest cinema in Liverpool, made the heartbreaking decision to close after 93 years in business.

In an announcement on their Facebook page, staff said the decision had been made due to “devastating and unforeseen circumstances”, after the coronavirus pandemic took its toll.

Thousands of people from across the city expressed their shock and sadness at the news, with many sharing their memories of watching films there.

A fundraising page has since been set up to try and save the cinema, with nearly £20,000 pledged in donations to a Go Fund Me campaign.

Following the announcement this weekend, we decided to take a look back in the ECHO archive at the cinema in the decades gone by.

From the run up to the cinema’s diamond jubilee back in 1987 to the filming of Nowhere Boy outside in 2013, here’s some of the fond moments many of us will remember.

Woolton Picture House was designed by architect L. A. G. Prichard and opened its doors for the first time in 1927.

The cinema was build for Alfred Adams and originally held a seating capacity of over 800, made up of several rows of wooden benches.

Woolton Picture House has closed its doors forever.
(Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

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In 1954, a new owner took over the cinema, when it was handed to Robert Godfrey of Cheshire Country Cinemas.

A few years later in 1958, a fire broke out at the front of the screen that drastically altered the look of the cinema.

The blaze almost destroyed the public area of the auditorium and forced it to close for three months while it underwent extensive repair work.

It reopened in late December that year with a showing of Walt Disney’s “Old Yeller”.

On November 7, 1987, Woolton Pictured House appeared in the ECHO with a new frontage, ahead of its diamond Jubilee.

Woolton Picture House with its new frontage on November 7, 1987. Pictured: Dave Swindell (projectionist) and trainee Dave Barrows
(Image: Liverpool Echo)

According to the article the cinema underwent a big refurbishment in the 1950s, which saw some of its seats removed.

The refurb meant the cinema could now seat 256 people in “far more comfort”, while cinemascope and new sound equipment was also installed.

In 1999 the picture house, which had by this time been taken over by owner David Wood, appeared in an ECHO article to oppose the plans for a multiplex being built in Speke.

Woolton Picture House on October 20 1999
(Image: Liverpool Echo)

Meanwhile photos taken years later, show people queuing down the road to get into the cinema for what appears to be a Christmas showing.

December is a time when many people visit the cinema, with showings of Christmas classics like Elf, Arthur Christmas and Home Alone booking up well in advance.

woolton picture house (460)
Huge queues outside Woolton Picture House for a Christmas viewing

The cinema has itself featured in films – photos taken in 2009 show camera crews filming Nowhere Boy outside Woolton Picture House.

Its longstanding presence made it the perfect backdrop for Nowhere Boy, which tells the story of John Lennon’s teenage years from 1955 to 1960 and traces the early days of his rise to stardom in The Quarrymen.

Woolton Picture House was chosen to feature in the film as somewhere the Beatles star would regularly visit during his childhood.

Filming Nowhere Boy outside Woolton Picture House in Liverpool
Filming Nowhere Boy outside Woolton Picture House in Liverpool
Anne-Marie Duff shares a joke with fellow actor Aaron Johnson whilst filming Nowhere boy outside Woolton Picture House
Anne-Marie Duff shares a joke with fellow actor Aaron Johnson whilst filming Nowhere boy outside Woolton Picture House

In an emotional post on the Woolton Picture House page on Friday, staff said: “To all our dear customers.

“We are all aware of the severity of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on all.

“It is as a result of these devastating and unforeseen circumstances that we must inform you of our toughest decision to permanently close Woolton picture House.

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They continued: “Woolton Picture House will always hold a sentimental place in all our hearts.

“Many happy moments and wonderful memories have been created at the cinema during the 93 years it has been open; from first dates to couples 100th date, first childhood cinematic experiences, to wedding days and family gatherings at Christmas.

“It has been our sincere delight to have had the pleasure to welcome you all time & again and we whole heartedly thank you for your gracious presence and kind support, that over the years has enabled the cinema to remain open.

“But it is now with great sorrow that we are to close our wonderful red doors.

“We will forever remember and think fondly of a place that allowed us to share time with the Hollywood stars, be absorbed into other worlds and leave reality behind for a short time.”

The touching post ended with a fitting nod to cinema, with the inclusion of the iconic line from the 1996 film, Jerry Maguire: “We will not say goodbye to you or our beloved cinema but instead ‘you had me at hello’.”

Liverpool Echo – Liverpool News