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
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
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
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 didnt win, but we were interviewed by Alan
Whicker for BBC televisions 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
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 hapenny.
It was my first paid gig.
John Penhale Now lives in
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
used to go to the Saturday morning matinee as a kid way back in
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
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
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
Many thanks Bob Jessopp