Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Rivoli, before it became the Essoldo, the Classic and the Shalimar and finished as our last cinema

All our cinemas have gone. Two were demolished one is a supermarket and the last is an undertaker’s. It is hard to decide which has met the worst fate.

The last to go was the Rivoli which I suppose was fitting given that it was the last of the four to be built. It had opened in 1937 and closed sometime in the 1980s.


I remember seeing Gone with the Wind there in 1979, and it was the perfect film to see in such an old fashioned cinema house. The frontage was pretty much all glass, with tall windows reaching from the first floor to almost the top of the building.

The box office was in the centre of the auditorium and behind it there was the sweep of stairs which took you up the circle.

Coming down from the stairs you could look out through the great windows with their faded drapes to the Feathers opposite. Not that we ever went there. A night at the “flicks" would still always end in the Trevor.

Now I guess it had been built to cater for the new Corporation estates which had been going up from the late 1920s. These were south of the Brook stretching out on either side of Barlow Moor Road and out beyond Mauldeth Road West and the Rivoli was situated perfectly to catch this audience.

It was damaged during the war and did not reopen until 1953. For those interested in these things it is still possible to trace the stick of bombs that fell that night, because along with the cinema they destroyed houses on Claude and Reynard which were also rebuilt after the war.

But the Rivoli suffered from the general decline of cinema goers and despite changes of name to the Essoldo, then the Classic and later still the Shalimar it was on the slide.

 When R. E. Stanley took his picture of the cinema it was showing an Italian movie called the Barbarian and the Goliath or as it was alternatively known the Goliath and the Barbarian. Starring Steve Reeves it was a sequel to the very successful Hercules made in 1958 and Hercules Unchained finished the following year. 

Unlike the earlier films this was set in the Dark Ages in Northern Italy when barbarian armies have overrun the country but are meeting with resistance from a local hero, and despite some plot twists and a romantic diversion is really a tale of tyranny versus good and could as one review has suggested been set at anytime in any place.

So just an action film with dubbed voices and as such good enough to fill the mid week slot and the Sunday matinee but not a crowd puller for a big Saturday night. In the same year there had been Ben Hur, North by North West, Some Like it Hot, Pillow Talk and Anatomy of a Murder, as well as On the Beach, Rio Bravo and Suddenly Last Summer.

Come to think of it, I can’t remember seeing a new release there either.

But then if we are honest suburban cinemas were not by the late ‘50s about the brand new film they were comfortable little places to fill the odd evening out between the big movies in town and the telly.

Picture; Essoldo Cinema m09200 March 1959 R E Stanley, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

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