The lost cinemas of Ilford town centre

Ilford Super cinema circa 1924.

Ilford Super cinema circa 1924. - Credit: Archant

Local historian John Barfoot shares his memories of the “picture palaces” of 1930s Ilford.

My last column recalling the day war broke out was accompanied by the sad photo of the Hippodrome ruins.

The ‘Hipp’ had a special place in my childhood, although a popular variety theatre, I recall watching pictures at the ‘Hipp’; Shape Of Things To Come and The Eagle And The Hawk around 1937.

I well recall the Picture Palaces of Ilford in a life before television, yes there was such a time!

The Ilford Super Cinema lived up to its name, it was truly was super, situated opposite Ilford Railway Station, dating back before my time to the silent film era, when it had an orchestra.


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In my day, a magnificent Compton organ would play during the interval, some times lyrics would be screened, accompanied by a bouncing ball to encourage the audience to sing.

A large first floor restaurant, with smart uniformed waitresses was available, not that we could afford to dine there, fortunately living local we did not have to.

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The ample auditorium permitted queuing inside, allowing us to watch the screen while waiting for seats to be vacated by those who had watched the continuous programme, up to where they had come in.

This little blighter was fascinated by uniformed ushers, dispensing a cooling perfumed mist, from containers carried shoulder high along the gangways, during summer performances.

The Regal, in the Ilford High Road, was where we spent a large part of soldier Dad’s 36-hour leave, gathered together in a rare moment of peace watching Gone With The Wind.

Walking home from the Regal, I often whistled the tune, Spread a little Happiness, as it appeared to be the only record the Regal had to follow the traditional playing of the National Anthem at the end of evening performances.

After watching Dangerous Moonlight though, I attempted whistling the Warsaw Concerto, walking home along Woodlands Road.

The Rio opposite Barking Railway Station was closer to home than the Savoy at Gants Hill, just as well, as we also walked home from the Rio weather permitting.

We watched our first 3D picture, wearing cardboard specs, with red and green celluloid lens at the Barking Odeon.

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