The cinema, designed by J. Owen Bond & Son with interior by Theodore Komisarjevski, opened on 25th October 1937 with a seating capacity of 1900. The original organ was a Granada designed 3 manual 8 rank Wurlitzer Theatre Organ. It is technically still playable.
The cinema was tripled in 1973, two small screens being added in the rear stalls area under the circle. The cinema was for many years the home of our 'Young Theatre Organist of the Year' competitions, but it closed in November 1996.
At the time of the sale of the building, Granada's Head Office management wished to donate the organ to our Chapter in return for all the work Les Rawle and the technical team had undertaken on it over many years. However since the building was 'listed' our understanding was that the organ had to remain 'in situ' and we refrained from risking any attempt to remove it.
For many years the building was abandoned; it suffered water damage and the organ chambers became home for a large number of pigeons. The area was declared hazardous and the chambers were securely double locked until the new owners finally understood their obligation to ensure the organ needed to be made safe.
During 2002 the damage to the organ was fully repaired to 'as new' condition by Len Rawle.
Subsequently several ATOS concerts took place between 2002 and 2005, featuring Len Rawle and Kevin Morgan amongst others. They demonstrated what a fine instrument it continues to be.
Although the main features of the original cinema are very well preserved, sadly there is no permanent seating in what is now a gymnasium that runs 7-days a week. The cost of hiring the building for an evening concert is far beyond what is commercially viable.
Nick Ashton, of our technical team, inspects the instrument from time to time. He occasionally runs up the blower, checks that the orchestra pit water pump is functioning and that the chambers are secure and kept at a reasonable temperature.
In order to keep the vulnerable main cable clear of any water/dampness in the orchestra pit, the beautifully refurbished console remains fully elevated on its lift in full view of all who attend the gymnasium.