The Cinema City

Cinemas play an important role in Hull’s past, present, and future. In this blog post we share some of the stories we’ve collected in the past year and explore the place of ‘the pictures’ in people’s stories of the city.

If we were to rank the types of place that come up again and again in our project, cinemas would be, without doubt, very close to the top of the list. Hull seems to love talking about ‘the pictures’ – and some people even claim that Hull once had the most cinemas of any city in the country. We’re not sure if that’s true (let us know if you have the facts), but it’s pretty clear that cinemas are important sites for people when narrating their stories of life in Hull.

Picture theatres in the city centre, on housing estates, in retail parks and on Hull’s thoroughfares have played a big role in people’s lives over the past eighty years, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. People have told us about going to the pictures on dates, or as a weekend tradition with friends and family, or queuing up for children’s matinees on Saturday mornings. In this blog post, we’re going to share some of those stories through quotes and sound clips.

Hull’s cinemas are still a big part of the city landscape today, although perhaps in much more subtle ways. Many have been demolished but others have found new lives as shops, pubs, nightclubs and places to live. National Lottery Heritage Fund money will soon bring the National Picture Theatre on Beverley Road back to life as an events space and educational centre, while Hull Independent Cinema are working to establish a new indie cinema in the city.

So settle in with your popcorn, grab an ice-cream during the interval, and enjoy this trip back in time with some of the stories we’ve collected of Hull – the cinema city.

“We did a lot of cinema going…so the ABC cinema, Cecil and some right fleapits, the Tower, which is still there, the Regent, which is opposite it, I think it’s now Horner’s, Dorchester, Criterion, which were down George Street I think. There were also back then a lot of suburban cinemas, Hull was known as a cinema city.”
“Tower was one of Hull’s cinemas – opposite was Regent Cinema, further down Anlaby Road was Carlton. There was Cecil, Dorchester, Criterion, all within walking distance of the bus station, where there was ABC Cinema, in the 1960s.”
“Regal cinema was next to bus station and rail station. At age 11 I was allowed to journey into Hull by myself on the bus to attend the Children’s Matinee. Later my first date with my husband was also here.”


“Now the cinemas were really something in Hull. There wasn’t a lot to do in Hull at night, and, the idea of having a night out in Hull as they do today would have been laughable, a night out that you would have in those days, for me at any rate and my lot if you like, my friends, and probably a lot of others besides, you’d get a bus into town, find out what’s on at the pictures. First of all you’d get the Hull Daily Mail, in the middle of the Hull Daily Mail down both sides of the page – it was a much bigger paper in those days – and down both sides of the centre spread, would be the list of all the cinemas in Hull and there were a lot, probably be about, if I said forty, maybe wrong, but it was, it was a lot. All over the city. North, South, well you couldn’t be South could you [laughs], but it’d be North, West and East.
We all had our favourites. People living in East Hull would have theirs, North Hull theirs, and we out West would have ours. The nearest one for me was the Priory Cinema, Spring Bank. That was a big, a big favourite cos I used to go the children’s matinees there and that was something worth going to.
There was the Carlton, which is now a desolate ruin on Anlaby Road, I go past there when I go to watch Hull City, I walk down there and I look at that place and I think of the memories that I had in that place. And then further down of course at the bottom near the end and the art school, the art college where I went, there was the Tower, which is still there ‘cos it’s a beautiful building, and The Regent, which was right opposite, which I believe, um, had the first showing of one of the Beatles’ films, Hard Day’s Night I think and the queues were a mile up and down the road.
Those were our favourites but the one that a lot of people thought was, well I’ve got to mention another one or two, there was the Dorchester on George Street, that was a nice one, that backed onto the brewery, Hull Brewery, so it could be a bit sniffy sometimes. And then the Criterion, which was down at the bottom of George Street just beyond Carmichael’s classy shop, that was another one. It had two beautiful lions, statue lions outside. That was a nice one. The only thing I didn’t like about the Criterion cinema was when you went upstairs, the upper circle was so, sheer, that when you sat down, or stood up, you got vertigo because you were like looking straight down the side of a cliff. But I saw my first Charlie Chaplin in there and made a bit of an exhibitions of myself by killing myself laughing [laughs].
But the one that a lot of people made for was of course The Regal, which is now gone, long gone. Which was err, right outside the station. And the reason is, and I’m getting back to these nights out and, you had to get your timing right, if you went to the cinema. Because the city, closed down at around 10 o’clock every night. In fact, probably, its fair to say that if you walked down any street in Hull most nights at ten o’clock at night, in the mid early 50s, you wouldn’t see many people about, it was deserted, because the last bus had gone. So you had to plan what cinema you went to and the timing.”

“When we used to live down Beverley Road there used to be a picture house, in town, so my friend, it was like my first time at pictures, she’d taken me with her mam to erm, I think it was the ABC so it was where St Stephen’s is now, where the old station was, there used to be an picture house. We went in there and we went to watch He-Man, Masters of the Universe and I thought it was amazing because it was like, never been to a cinema. That was fun.”



“Ah, well we used to go the pictures, and we used to be able to just go, you didn’t have to book to go in at all. Do you know Piper Club on Newland Avenue? Did you see it as you came along? Well that was the cinema, it was called Monica Cinema. And on Beverley Road, I’ve forgotten what they call it, well it was, they did turn it into a pub but it’s flats now, and I can’t remember what they called the pub, but it’s just – do you know Beverley Road at all? Well there’s De Grey Street on this side and Lambert Street and it’s on that block. And that used to be the Mayfair Cinema. And there was the National Cinema on Beverley Road there was the Strand Cinema there was lots of them. And they did two sessions, well they did an afternoon sometimes and there was the early evening and then there was the second one, and you could go in, and in you went in a bit late, it didn’t matter ‘cos you could stay in and watch the next one. Which we very often did. But you didn’t have to book, you just went. So Janet who lived round about – and we didn’t have telephones at that time – so, either she would walk round to my house or I’d walk round to hers, “Shall we go to the pic-”, we never said the cinema, “shall we go round to the pictures tonight?”.



“I used to love going to the pictures. I used to go to the pictures with my Grandma Gertie who was the one who lived on Derringham Bank on Ampleforth Grove, and she lived, um, really only a few hundred yards away from The Priory Cinema. Do you know where that was?
No I don’t.
Okay well it’s now a supermarket, and I can’t really, the corner of Calvert Lane and Willerby Road. And she loved going as well so whenever she was looking after me which was quite a lot actually, my parents used to go away quite a bit. So she and I would toddle off to, to the cinema and watch whatever was going. Super, loved it.
And what was the cinema like?
Um, it was quite good, I think it must have been fairly modern I don’t know whether it was built, probably built in the 30s and you know it can’t have been bombed or anything. The seats were quite plush. We used to sit downstairs, it was a treat if you even sat upstairs. But I don’t she and I ever did. Um, the usual stuff, you could still buy ice creams then I think, um, they used to have children’s matinees on a Saturday morning. And I don’t think I ever went to one but all my friends did, sixpenny, probably less than that to get it. And the whole place would be full of kids. I’m think I probably did go once because I seem to remember how they all used to shout, and you couldn’t hear what was going on [laughs]. So I enjoyed that.”

“The number of cinemas – biggest in any city!”

More stories of Hull’s cinemas can be explored through our online memory map. There are also some wonderful blogs online sharing more about Hull’s historic picture theatres, including this one, and lots of resources in the Hull History Centre.





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