Aigburth is a leafy suburb of south Liverpool, back in the day it had two cinemas, click the links below for a visit…
When the Mayfair Super-Cinema was constructed in 1937 it raised the bar for theatre design in Liverpool.
The designer was A Ernest Shennan who was well known for his entertainment houses. The attractive entrance sported three black plinths which divided the doors with cream colored class on either side on which artistic reliefs were etched. Above the entrance was a single row marquee with the cinema’s name on either end. The facade of the building was adorned with neon lights running up both sides, along the very top, in three large arches which outlines the cinema large windows, and illuminating the name of the cinema.
Inside, the cinema was adorned with wood paneling, tile flooring, and glass lighting features. The auditorium contained a 40′-wide proscenium which was outlined by ribs finished with silver and gold. The proscenium contained a large curtain decorated with gold festoons and red edge pelmet and side drapes. In front of the stage was an orchestra pit containing a Compton organ. The sloping floor of the auditorium was broken into three sections and in total could hold an audience of 1,750. The tabs (curtain) were taken out when the floating screen was installed.
The Mayfair had two Kalee 11 projectors, the machines were installed in 1937 and were still running until the closure in 1973. The projector arcs were first Kalee Regal carbon then Peerless carbon and finally Cinemecanica xenon lamps. There was only one lantern, a slide lantern, and a sound system by Western Electric.
The Mayfair opened on the 1st of May, 1937 with an invitation only performance at 2:30pm with the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Alderman William Denton.The screening was of Educated Evans starring Max Miller and the programme was complete with a organ musical interlude. Later that evening it opened to the public, shows were at 6:15pm and 8:40 pm with admission: 6d and 9d for stalls and 1/- and 1/3 for the balcony.
Starting on the 12th of October, 1953 with Sangaree the Mayfair played 3D films. The run was short though and on the 20th of December, 1954 3D technology was substituted for CinemaScope.
In 1969, to increase the picture size of the existing CinemaScope, an even large screen was installed. However, the large screen extended over the entire proscenium and surrounding features, hiding them from sight, and preventing the curtains from closing during intermission. After this ‘upgrade’ the Mayfair began to advertise pictures “on the giant floating screen,” beginning with The Alamo, starring John Wayne.
The Mayfair was the last surviving cinema in the area of South Liverpool however by the beginning of the 1970′s admission were dropping off substantially. The last film to bring a full house to the cinema was The Sound of Music.
By 1973 the Mayfair was sunk and after a double bill of The Last Picture Show and Bullitt, the doors closed on the 23rd of June. The theatre was purchased by Mecca Ltd and converted into a bingo hall and social club. After this venture closed in 1984 the building was sold and then demolished to allow for the construction of a new supermarket.
David Ellis one of the projectionists at the Mayfair remembered the names of the staff who worked at the cinema, Beryl Sayle, cashier, Margaret Long, usherette, Gloria Oldroyd, sweet kiosk, Sylvia Kelly, usherette, Tom Barnes, manager, Sam Bennett, manager after Mr Barnes, Joe O’Connell, handy man, Barry Stead, relief manager, Ian Hamilton, circuit manager.
Tony Jones a member of our facebook page told us his mother Monica Jones was an usherette at the cinema in 1952, he remembers how she would open the back door to let his father in for free if there was a film he wanted to see.
“It’s great to have something like this to share it all. It was so luxurious, plush carpets, light fittings, things you never had at home. The Mayfair had drapes that used to change colour” Very enjoyable. The contrast of your own home compared was just beautiful”
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“We’d go to the Mayfair and do our copping off there”
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Brian Cubbon – Chief Projectionist
Take a look at the Flickr album;
Reel Heroes -Projectionist film
Mayfair projection room filmed by David Ellis – 2nd projectionist of the Mayfair
While the Rivoli Cinema was was one of Liverpool’s smaller picture houses it was has one of the oldest histories. The building that housed the Rivoli dated back to 1889 according to the date on the stonework of the building. It was originally built as the Sefton Park Assembly Rooms by the wealthy merchants of the area who used it for local functions and ceremonies.
Around the turn of the century the building was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. A Scott who opened Pa Scott’s Opera House. Then, in 1906, the upper floor of the Opera House was converted into the Aigburth Assembly Picturedrome which seated about 300 patrons on wooden forms. The small cinema changed its line-up on Mondays and Thursdays, had a special matinee for children on Saturdays at 3:00pm, and offered booked seats at “no extra charge.” Admission was 1/-, 9d, 6d, and 3d. During those early silent years the films were accompanied by a live piano player, Miss E. F. Graydon.
In 1923 the building underwent heavy reconstruction to make way for the Rivoli Theatre. The ground floor of the building was converted into stalls while the upstairs was transformed into the balcony. All together this doubled the seating capacity from 300 to 600 patrons. In addition to films the theatre presented variety shows such as the local Arthur Askey, Tommy Handel and the Jack Fortescue Repertory Co., famous comedians and a successful live theater company, respectively.
In 1928 ownership of the Rivoli changed hands from Aigburth Picture House Ltd to Denman Picture Houses Ltd, part of the countrywide GB Picture Corporation. In the 1930′s, with the opening of larger cinemas, like the neighboring Mayfair the Rivoli was at a strong disadvantage for film bookings. By the 1950′s, with the advent of television, the Rivoli was in major decline and finally closed its doors on the 5th of January of 1957 after screenings of Back to Eternity and The High Terrace.
A few years later the building was purchased by parishioners of St. Charles’ Roman Catholic Church then resold sometime in the 1970s. In 1994 the building became the Grace Christian Center. While the historic building still remains its history of live entertainment and motion pictures has come to an end.
“I remember you used to have to go downstairs to the cinema here”
Take a look at the Flickr album;
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Lady love going to the cinema
Brian Cubbons the chief projectionist
MDI grace used to go to