The Ritz Cinema
The Ritz Cinema was considered the most luxurious of all the cinemas in our area. This was perhaps due to its large stage, crystal chandeliers a blaze with light, solid mahogany doors and trims, lavish flower displays, high quality seating and plush red carpets of a glorious ornate décor.
Located near the football ground (159 Grimsby Road, Cleethorpes, DN35 7DG), the Ritz Cinema was built and opened by the ’Union Cinemas’ chain on 31st July 1937, with the first resident manager being Mr MJ Sharp.
The single screen cinema provided seating in stalls and circle levels, holding a capacity of 1450 people. It was equipped with a ‘Compton 3 Manual/ 6 Ranks’ organ, which was considered far superior to any other in the area.
At the grand opening of the cinema, it is reported that the organ was “surrounded by a gorgeous array of azaleas”. On the conclusion of the opening ceremony, Robinson Cleaver took his seat at the organ and the audience sang a verse of the National Anthem. They was then shown a selection of short pictures combined with an organ recital by Mr Cleaver who “demonstrated the capabilities of the instrument with great skill and won enthusiastic applause”.
However, the organ was later removed to make space for the enlargement of the orchestra pit. The organ was relocated at another ABC Cinema in Northampton and installed on Sunday 4th May 1989.
The first film to be shown after opening was ‘Our Fighting Navy’ starring Robert Douglas.
On entering the building, within an elegant designed foyer, one found a pay box situated to the right, with stairs to the circle of the left. It is said that entry to the entire building was free on proof of a birthdays for the person concerned.
The auditorium itself was a fusion of peach, gold and terracotta elaborately detailed in near art deco 1930’s style.
Over the years, the Ritz Cinema superbly catered for the entertainment needs of our area, showing mainly first run films and putting on the stage many famous artists and household names such as, Cliff Richard, Billy Fury, David Whitfield, Morecambe & Wise, Dickie Valentine and Adam Faith, while the stage accommodated a variety of performances, pop shows and local talent such as the Silhouettes.
However, due to financial difficulties, the cinema was taken over by ‘ABC Cinemas’ and renamed ‘ABC Cleethorpes’ in 1959.
Around 1968, a cinema club for children was formed called ‘ABC Minors’ at 6 pence a time, a small price for parents to pay for a peaceful Saturday morning.
At the beginning of each Saturday morning session, the “ABC Minors Song” would be played to the tune of ‘Blaze Away’ by Abe Holzmann (1874–1939). This was complete with lyrics that flashed on the screen from an old carbon arc lamp and slide lantern. A bouncy red ball was projected above the words to help the audience keep their place.
The lyrics of the song were as followed:
We are the boys and girls all known as…
Minors of the ABC…
And every Saturday all line up…
To see the films we like and shout aloud with glee…
We like to laugh and have our sing-song…
Such a happy crowd are wee…eeeee
We’re all pals together…
We’re Minors of the ABC.
(The song can also be found here via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzWjw7AO_Xo)
Following the song, a film or some cartoons were shown. One series of a film, which left the hero in a perilous position – to be carried on next week, were watched. This continued through until the 1970’s.
In 1953, the North Sea Surge saw the entire East coast flooded. The sea broke through the embankment between Suggitt’s Lane and Fuller Street, flooding our area greatly as it smashed through the walls of the Chief Projectionist, Sid Melhuish’s house on Oliver Street. A lot of other houses had similar damage but the only affect the flood had on the Ritz building, was the flooding of the organ pit.
During the 1970’s, the advent of television and the bingo craze saw the audience of cinemas starting
to dwindle and so the Ritz Cinema closed for the first time in 1972 for refurbishment. A dividing center wall was added in the foyer, dividing the cinema and a new bingo hall, which was previously the stalls. At this point, the cinema seated 483 people, opened in the former circle on 12th August 1972.
Unfortunately due to the success of TV, cinemas were closing throughout the country and the final curtain came down on the ABC Cleethorpes on the 10th September 1982.
It was hoped that the Ritz cinema would re-open as a theatre but nothing came of it and the building fell into dis-repair after it suffered a serious fire in April 1985.
It is reported that there were a number of options for the Ritz site including a petrol station, a fast food restaurant and a disco and snooker Hall.
However, local people launched a campaign to restore the building as a theatre. The group was called ‘Preserve The Ritz’. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful in convincing the Council.
Therefore, after standing for 45 years, the building was finally demolished in 1993 and the site has, ever since, occupied by a McDonalds fast food restaurant, leaving the area’s most lavish and luxurious cinema a mere memory.
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