Wigan's sad demise of the silver screens

An old cinema in Wigan in the 60s lost in the passage of time
An old cinema in Wigan in the 60s lost in the passage of time

Our top columnist Geoffrey Shryhane looks back at happy times when you could spend all day in the cinema for the price of one ticket...

As a youngster, in a televisionless home, I went to the pictures twice a week. Sometimes three times. It was a cheap and cheerful hobby.

To finance these cinematic extravaganzas, I often took my dad’s empty beer bottles back to the off licence.

Posh life or what?

Now I never go to the pictures. For me, that big Empire multiplex at Robin Park lacks personality. In a decade I’ve been just once to see an Alan Bennet film.

But I think back at the Wigan cinemas of old – they littered the town centre like celluloid dreams. Each had its own personality and ladies with trays sold ice cream and juices in between the continuous shows.

You could go at 2pm and stay until late at night watching the films over and over again. Some pensioners did it in winter to keep warm.

Last week, I came across a list of our picture houses back in 1950 – and despite their being closed and shuttered (and some demolished) I remembered each and everyone with affection.

Here’s the list:

County Playhouse, King Street.

Court Cinema, King Street.

Empire, Market Place.

Pavilion, Library Street.

Palace Cinema, King Street.

Prince’s, Wallgate.

Ritz, Station Road.

Gidlow Picture House.

Scholes Picture House, Scholes.

Queen’s Cinema, Ormskirk Road.

Carlton Cinema, Ormskirk Road.

Of course there were other cinemas in the districts – three at Hindley for a start … the Palace, The Castle (known as the Vic) and the Rex.

If you know the names of the others, please drop me an email at g.shryhane@btinternet.com. Or write to me here at the Wigan Observer, Investment Centre, Waterside Drive, Wigan.