The Central Hall, Market Street, was known by many names after opening in 1890 including: Operetta House, Lyric Hall and Bijou Theatre, Central Hall and Central Cinema. As a cinema it was most popularly known as “Cheetham’s”.
image by permission, and copyright of, Ian Meyrick.
This photograph was taken in 1909 by Ian Meyrick’s father, Charles O’ Reilly. One of the films being shown at the time was of Bleriot’s crossing of the English Channel. Mr O’ Reilly remembered Arthur Cheetham well and could recall him, or sometimes an assistant, standing at the front and describing what was on the screen. He remembered the line “He tells her he loves her, but is telling lies”!
During that year of 1909 the Central Hall underwent improvements, which were comprehensively described by the Rhyl Journal in article in the edition of May 29th, 1909:
“With remarkable ingenuity the Silvograph pictures have been running daily as usual during the whole time the alterations and improvements have been going on, and it may be remarked upon that this week’s pictures are quite up to the high standard of excellence. Some of the principal ones are: “I will have a husband”, “Kind-hearted men”, “John wishes to marry a dancer”, “Flower Girl of Paris”, “Deer hunting in Canada”, “The Animal’s Friend”, “Mother Whipper” and “Suitable present for a son-in-law”.
It goes on to say: “Mr Cheetham asks us to correct a wrong impression which has got abroad that the alterations completed have been done at the request of the licensing authorities. This is not the case, but the improvements are done on Mr Cheetham’s own ideas, in order to make the Central Hall more comfortable, easy of access and egress; and a great feature of the plan will be that crowding in the street will be entirely avoided. Both the magistrates (who are the licensing authorities) and the Urban Council have entirely approved the plans. The seating has been entirely re-organised. A new balcony has been constructed, supported from the earth on steel stanchions and girders, at the back of the hall. The front row of this balcony will be allotted to the one shilling seats, while the remaining rows will be sixpenny seats.”
and also: “The old gallery is entirely removed and under the balcony there is a rising tier of seats, which are all crimson, plush tip-up stalls. These will create a new intermediate price of seat, which will be 8d. In front of these of these will be several rows as before at 6d. The seats from the old gallery have been removed and this portion will now be designated as the pit, as is usual in theatres, and the price of these seats will be 3d. The audience for the 6d, 8d and 1s seats all enter from Market Street and all these exit by a different door from that which they enter. The pit entrance will be in Glanglasfor, at the stage entrance, so that the crowd who may be waiting for the second performance at any time will be distributed, and thus with this arrangement together with the new exits, the facility of entry and exit will be greatly improved. Mr Cheetham claims that the Central hall will now be emptied quicker than any Hall in Rhyl in proportion to size.”
The article concludes: “In Whitweek the ordinary Summer methods will be commenced, viz:- Three entertainments daily, at 3, 7 and 8.30 and every wet morning at 11; also three different and distinct programmes, so that no picture is repeated in the day. The famous motor mystery picture will be shown from time to time during the Summer for the benefit of visitors, and one of the programmes for Whitweek will include “The Last Days of Pompeii”
Pioneering film maker Arthur Cheetham, born in Derbyshire in 1864, moved to Wales in the 1880’s basing himself in Rhyl. He took up several jobs including printer, film exhibitor, hygienist and phrenologist. He first began to show films in Rhyl in 1897, at least eight of his films survive. He died in Tring, Herfordshire on 15th January 1937.
for more information about Arthur Cheetham: http://www.victorian-cinema.net/cheetham