Winton Forum


Goodbye Gala

Wimborne Road lost its last major entertainment venue when twenty years after the demolition of the Continental cinema at Winton Banks, the Gala Bingo Club closed on 10 February 2008.

The building started life in the mid1930's as the Moderne - an elegant stylish cinema. It fell foul of television in the 1960's and survived for another forty years as a bingo club. Ironically it was another mass medium, the internet, which finally sucked away its customers and caused its downfall.

The building is important not just because it is a surviving example of Art Moderne (late Art Deco) architecture and cutting edge 1930's design. For more than seventy years it has been a focal point in the lives of countless local people for whom it has provided both entertainment and employment. Some of them have shared their memories with us.

We've been to take a look around. In some of the pictures we have digitally removed posters and other objects so that you can see the features of the old Moderne cinema more clearly. From its opening date in 1935 until its conversion to a bingo hall in 1963 it was capable of seating an audience of 1500.

In we go towards the main doors. The walls used to be a different colour, but the two three-pronged "arrows" of green tiles still point the way. The door glazing has rounded corners and the "ladder style" seen on many deco buildings of the era.

We're through the doors and heading up towards the lobby. The Moderne was built during the slump years of the 1930's and like all cinemas tried to offer people people a little magic amid the hard times. The large expanses of mirror are a later addition. Originally the walls had small posters advertising forthcoming films and tagged with the slogan "If it's a good film the Moderne will have it".

Past the ticket office and up to the left is the stairway to the circle. The roof here is supported by four decorative columns. There are characteristic curves and rounded edges everywhere. The stair walls used to be adorned with pictures of film stars.

The lights are off and the windows are dirty, but this used to be the restaurant and ice cream parlour and finally a coffee bar. The kitchen is over to the left. Those chrome curved back chairs are typical of modernist 30's deco design. They have probably been in the building since 1935 - but they may be 50's copies. Chrome was the dominant feature in all the original restaurant fittings

We're heading towards these doors that lead onto the circle balcony. More chrome, rounded edges, columns and "port-hole" style windows on the doors.

And here we are up on the balcony. Nobody has sat in these seats for years. But they still all fold up and down as they should. Originally the upholstery and carpet were fake leopard skin. During the 1950's the seat covers were dyed green.

Here is the back row. Bound to bring back memories for many people!

Here's what you see if you look towards the stage.

A little digital manipulation - and here is an idea of what you would have seen sixty years ago. The wall area to either side of the stage had a beautiful coal fire brick effect which used to light up. This was never used during the 1940's, but was reinstated in the fifties after power restrictions were lifted.

A number of local lads launched pop careers from the talent contests held on the stage of the Moderne during the 50's and 60's. Even after it became a bingo hall, chart topping groups like those pictured above sometimes appeared on stage.

Back out on the upper lobby - stairs straight ahead. restaurant to the right and toilets to the left.

Back down the stairs we get a good view of the columns and distinctive curved chromed hand rails on the walls.

Through the doors into the main auditorium and the seats are long gone - it's now a bingo hall. The stage is filled with equipment and flanked by a bar and diner.

Up on the stage, sitting at the bingo caller's desk, you get a view of the sheer size of the auditorium and circle.

If you'd like to see more of the history of the building, click here.


If you'd like to see what is happening to the building now, click here.

If you have memories of the building either as the Moderne Cinema or as the Granada/Gala Bingo Hall - please email us.