Winton Forum


Memories of the Moderne

Here are some of the fond recollections of the old Moderne Cinema - before it became first a Gala Bingo Hall and then the Bournemouth Community Church LIFEcentre.

John is an old Wintonian who used to live in Victoria Park Road, near the Moderne and Ritz.

Thanks for your pics of the Moderne, it hasn't changed a great deal in the years.   The entrance didn't have mirrors in the days of the Moderne. There were small placards  advertising forthcoming films with the slogan "If its a good film the Moderne will have it". Films were shown Monday to Wednesday and Thursday to Saturday.   A separate film was shown Sundays to avoid entertainment tax.  

In later years the venue went to Monday-Saturday showings.   All showings were concurrent for some reason with the Astoria in Boscombe.   The furniture in the cafe-lounge area is not original. Originally there were table and chairs with chrome legs and arms.   The seats in the circle were fake leopard skin which was dyed green in the fifties. The circle stair walls were decked with portraits of film stars. I only remember one - of Robert Taylor.   A similar scheme was at the Ritz opposite which had a much longer foyer.

The original ticket office was four or six sided in green parallel to the left hand side entrance doors.   I think it was located there as perhaps too many people were able to slip in without paying in the really busy days, when there was a queue inside the lobby right up the stairs and the rear of the stalls had a double row of standing for people waiting to be be seated. These indeed were the days never to be emulated again.  

The original automatic ticket machine was a very noisy machine that you could hear in the cinema auditorium.

I remember the decor of the auditorium was in bronze, I think the pillars on the stairs were also bronze, on recollection the auditorium was bronze and grey, obviously the decor had to be dark to stop any reflected light.

In the Auditorium the splay walls (where the auditorium walls meet the proscenium) have been blanked out. Where the stars are now painted there was a beautiful coal fire brick effect which used to light up. It was not used in the 1940's and only reinstated in the fifties after wartime power restrictions were lifted.   The Moderne was one of the first cinemas in Bournemouth to install Cinemascope with full 4 track stereo sound (the auditorium speakers were further used for Bingo) and the fitted Ardente Hearing aid plugs were used by the floor staff to validate a bingo claim (long before computerisation).  The carpet (very well worn by the 60s) was mock leopard skin and was even between the seats  - an unheard of thing today. 

There were only ever 4 managers I believe. Mr Alexander from 1936/1946, Mr Read 1946/1958, Mr Byron-Davies 1958-1961 who came from the Plaza, Northam, in Southampton.   He was known as uncle Hugh and was very enterprising and started talent nights and the skiffle night which will go down in Winton's history. He also reopened the cafe as a coffee bar (trendy in the distant Fifties).  The fourth manager was Mr Self possibly Shave, who came from the Westover (ABC) and tried to re-establish a customer base by banning over 250 customers and trying to instil discipline in the house.  

I was at the last night of the Moderne in 1963 and was at the last night of Gala in 2008.  

As far as I know the architect Edward de Wilde Holding only designed three cinemas - all still standing, as well as the Moderne. The Cerdic in Chard (now a Witherspoon pub), the Wellesley in Wellington, Somerset still to this day operating as a single screen and a fourth theatre in Honiton, Devon, which was a mirror image of the Wellesley in Wellington.   Unfortunately only the entrance block remains, the auditorium having burnt down in 1962. An auction house was built on the site. They were both a lot smaller at about 700 seats.

Lets hope the Moderne can reach 100  years, its still ahead of its time.

Eileen spent part of her wedding day there

Enjoyed looking at your pictures of the Gala Club, so sad it is coming to the end, have many memories of going to the cinema there for many years and having my wedding reception there at the restaurant upstairs nearly 50 years ago.

Also enjoyed bingo there for many years.

Musician Al Kirtley writes:

Another childhood memory set to disappear. The photos are super, and brought back memories of the Saturday morning pictures, as well as later on snogging in the back row, not to mention lighting a tipped cigarette at the wrong end because of the dark.

The Moderne gave Al his first break into the music business.

Proper gigs, or "dates" as we then called them, were non-existent, at least for us, but we began entering a succession of skiffle contests under our new name of The Tennessee Tramps, culminating in a skiffle contest to raise funds for the nearly bankrupt Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (the Hallé must have laughed their socks off at that). We didn’t win, but we were interviewed by Alan Whicker for BBC television’s Tonight programme. Fame at last.

Around that time, we somehow talked our way into doing an interval slot at the Saturday morning picture show at the Moderne Cinema in Moordown, where I lived. This was an important gig for me, because, for the first time, I was going to sing a number.

We worked our way through our programme, my nerves steadily worsening as we did so, and then it was time for me to step out to the front and face two hundred kids, who were waiting impatiently for the Hopalong Cassidy main feature to begin. With the washboard hanging from my neck by a string, I launched into Frankie and Johnnie - not a song noted for its upbeat tempo. As I worked my way desperately through all fourteen verses, I began to sense a certain restlessness amongst the audience, but I managed to get to verse ten before the first coins started hitting the stage. Undaunted, I plodded gamely on to the end, and then gathered up the coins. They came to sixpence ha’penny.

It was my first paid gig.

John Penhale Now lives in New York

I was a regular patron until leaving for London in 1962 (prior to the cinema's conversion to Bingo). I do remember a moustachioed manager in a dinner jacket trying to add some element of decorum and class for his unruly clientele.

The talent shows were lot of fun with the Dowland Bros as the local stars. Hopefully, the Moderne will survive in some form or other that reminds us of its former glory.

Peter remembers the Martians

On Friday evenings when I was young in the 1950's it was a regular family event, going there, whatever happened to be showing!

Apart from films sometimes there were "Skiffle" groups, I can't remember the names of any in particular. The bass was provided by a length of taut string attached to a "tea chest".

When you entered the cinema usherette's with torches (flashlights) would guide your way to the seats in the darkness, and in the interval they stood at the front near the screen with a tray hanging from a strap behind their neck; selling ice creams, cigarettes, and other items for smokers!

It must have been around 1954 when I saw my first Sci-fi film there; "Invaders from Mars". It still appears on one of the many TV channels, on the odd occasion, and of course that takes me back to where I saw it the first time!

Otherwise most of the films I remember were American musicals that seemed to be all the rage at that time. Or Westerns.

Jeff lives in Morecambe, but he'll never forget the Moderne

I was born in 1944 in Oswald Road, so the Moderne and Ritz were my local cinemas. Although never well off, we did contrive to get to the cinema fairly often.

For some years, I attended Saturday morning cinema where the regular diet was the cowboy film ( as we called westerns), the cartoon and Pathe News, and the serial which always had a cliff-hanger ending to bring you back next week. I was a devotee of Roy Rogers and had endless arguments with those of my friends who preferred Gene Autry or Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd). Just occasionally they showed a really old Tom Mix film. 

The noise was awful, I recall. You could rate the film by the audience response - if we were quiet it was boring, if we were noisy it was exciting. We used to go early to try to beat the Wallisdown mob who came on the bus. On the way home, if we had a penny left, we'd stop at the chip shop to get a bag of bits from the chip fryer.

I have an abiding love of film and I also of art deco, and I think both were started in the Moderne. I remember seeing The Red Pony - and crying over it. I remember persuading my sister-in-law to take me to see The Purple Plain which was an A film I wanted to see so needed an adult to take me in.

Sometimes to see an A film. we'd stand outside asking adults "Take me in Mister?". Kindly ones would take our money, pay and pretend we were with them and then, as soon as we were shown to our seats by the usherette, we'd leave them and go and sit by ourselves. 

I remember going on my friend's 16th birthday to see The Alamo, and, of course, on dates with my first girlfriend, one of the early ones to see The Great Dictator with Charlie Chaplin. We even went to the Moderne twice with our school (Winton and Moordown) in 1953 - first to see the film of the Coronation and then for the Ascent of Everest. I can look through Halliwell's Guide to Films and mark off many films that I first saw at the Moderne.

The Ritz was closed for some years after the war when it had been used as a store house, I think. I believe the re-opening film was Northwest Mounted Police with Gary Cooper, which, at that time, I thought was splendid. I think the Ritz didn't last very long. I wasn't there, but heard that, when Rock Around the Clock was shown, the audience danced in the aisles and broke up the seating. In our time, we usually avoided the Ritz because it was a poorer quality place to the Moderne with a smaller screen and had less recent films.

I remember the Continental when it was the Plaza . I think one of the earliest of my cinema memories happened here. We went to see Joan of Arc (I must have been just 5 years old at the time) with the delicious Ingrid Bergman. At the end of the film she was burnt at the stake. When it was time to leave we went down to the front of the cinema where there was an exit onto Alma Road. I looked onto the stage where I saw the little glowing lights used to illuminate the curtain drapes. As they glowed on the stage, I was convinced they were coals that had fallen out of the fire - such was the magic of cinema!

Later it was re-launched as the Continental, showing foreign, often sexy, films. They were nothing like as pornographic as modern television, but it was the nearest you got to it in Bournemouth! I remember going there to see X-rated films when I was only 16 or so. Once, having got in to see a nudist film, I was appalled to find I was sitting just behind my brother's mother- and father-in-law. I moved carefully to avoid attention!

It was good to see the photos of the Moderne, but they miss one of the great pieces of decor - the curtains. These were arranged in great looping panels, with many different lights to enhance them. They were stunning just to sit and look at.

Christopher Way believes there is still a future

Twice in my life I have been saddened at the closure of the Moderne, both as a cinema in the mid 60s and now as a Bingo Hall this year. Although I did not frequent the latter facility, my parents did on a number of occasions before their passing.

I can remember as a young child going to the Moderne to the Saturday morning matinee's, and with my mother and father to see such greats as Summer Holiday, Wonderful Life, many western's, and much more. Of course there was also the live performances of local bands, and bands that made it in the music world. All in all, the Moderne was the pinnacle of entertainment within the Winton area, frequented by many who could not afford to go to town of an evening.

I joined the Navy in the late 60s and was saddened when I came home on one of my first leaves to find the Moderne had not only closed but also had become a Bingo Hall, no offence to Bingo players. Have played myself.

This building can be turned back into a cinema, and also used as an arts centre for plays from both the communities, and educational institutes. It is capable of still holding concerts live on stage. The Moderne could be brought to use such as the Regent in Christchurch, another art deco building saved some time back.

I represent a forum of Home Cinema fanatics, who I can say with surety, if we had the money, with our know how, and information, we could turn the Moderne back into a running cinema, and arts hall.

Long live the Moderne!

John Duffin remembers them all

I was born in Winton in Maxwell Road and lived in Hankinson Road for some years, I well remember the Skiffle Contest at the Moderne. I actually sat directly behind Ken Bailey , I also remember when the Bridge on the River Kwai came out a military band on stage played Colonel Bogey live.

Kalee 8 projectorI believe the Electic Theatre was indeed first to install Cinemascope and stereo sound but the Moderne quickly followed suit. The Ritz used to show many 3D movies in the mid fifties , usually 'B' pictures. They were usually paired with a 'boring' 'A' feature .

I worked as a part time projectionist at the Continental from 1960 till about 1964 - ancient Kalee 8 projectors with RCA Photophone sound and BTH arcs were fitted. Arcs were cut down on electric to save money - hence constant complaints from patrons that the picture was dark,! An ancient sound amplifier made sure that the sound was really tinney and poor.

In order to secretly inform the usherettes of a fire, a record was to be played - it was "I'll be Satisfied" by Jackie Wilson!!

There were about three records to play in the intervals - all instrumentals. In the basement was an original piano from silent days (there was one at the back of stage too ) and the original turntables from the earliest sound days together with a hand cranked projector from the original silent days . It was a museum piece !!

Just after I left the cinema was sold to another owner who furbished it with more up to date projection gear - at the same time removing the gazebo thing on the roof as the pillars were all cracking.

Thank you for taking me back to those days.

Laurie Marsh recalls the Wheelchair Wheeze

I used to go to the Saturday morning matinee as a kid way back in 1950.

Things were tough in those days and we used to set out very early in the morning to collect waste paper and old rags to sell so we could pay the entrance fee. We needed to find a few lemonade bottles and get the re-fund to make sure that we got enough to see Johnny Mack Brown or The Lone Ranger do their stuff!

A friend of mine (who lived in Brassey Rd.) lived next door to this kid who was crippled and was confined to a wheelchair. Now a wheelchair in those days was hard to push so it took four of us to push it. We used to push it to one of the fire doors at the Moderne and get in for nothing!

The word got out and finally there were about 20 kids pushing this one wheelchair!

That was the end of that!

Memories from Bob on the other side of the world

Thank you so much for the images and info on your website. I used to live in Muscliffe Lane and this was our, and my, favourite local.

I remember being devastated when I saw the Bingo sign being erected.

I remember the first Cinemascope film and the first Vistavision film, as well as the super big screen installed for Hans Christian Andersen.

My friends and I sat in the front row of the stalls and went cross eyed.

Great fun and lots of happy memories. I do have some slides of the projection room when Colin Maidment was the last projectionist there,

And one of the Auditorium I will try and find them and email them to you. Meanwhile I will have a look at "The Ritz.

Many thanks Bob Jessopp

New Zealand