Golden days of watching news on silver screen

lancaster park WI

Heritage Guide Margaret Dodds gave members a light and warm hearted account of the Tyneside Cinema – a greatly loved high street icon.

The early beginnings of news cinema were in the USA. These theatres showed newsreels, short clips of future films and short pieces with ‘voice overs’ always made.

Founder Dixon Scott, son of a Tyneside shipyard worker, opened the first Newsreel Cinema in Jarrow and the craze soon spread to Newcastle, with what was then the Newcastle News Theatre opening in Pilgrim Street in 1937.

He died soon afterwards, leaving his wife and son to continue his work.

Opening daily with programmes running continuously, it cost 1/- (one shilling) upstairs and 6d (sixpence) downstairs.

There were newsreels from Universal, Gaumont, Paramount and Pathe, all familiar names for people over a certain age. They kept the public up-to-date on current affairs – the only other source being wireless and newspapers.

In 1947, a total of 57 cinemas up and down the country showed the wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten and the Coronation in 1953 brought the public flocking in.

The Coronation also saw the wide scale purchase of television sets, costing around £60, which brought groups of neighbours into one room. The news theatre finally closed its doors for a short while in 1968 to repair and modernise.

Many cinema-goers recall a globe in a ‘mahogany case’ on the first floor where they would trace the location of the film just watched, or for their own travels. In 1970, workmen turned up to clean this globe and it was never seen again.

Heritage funding in 2006 saw large scale refurbishment and tasteful restoration of the Tyneside Cinema, now the only original cinema in the area still running. This was opened by the Earl of Wessex in 2009.

Thanks to a modern day DVD player, members enjoyed watching extracts from the FA Cup final with Jackie Milburn, King George VI launching his namesake ship, the Queen Mother (then Queen) meeting children at the RVI and opening the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Newcastle schoolboys snowballing, curling at Ryton and the Grace Darling Memorial at Bamburgh.

There was also one very amusing clip of two policemen on a motorcycle and side car in hot pursuit of a stolen car, with the owner phoning from a call box outside the RVI, and a moving clip from a former ‘drummer’ called H.T. Watson, blind for 25 years, publicly thanking the surgeon who had restored his sight by ‘grafting’.

The vote of thanks was given by Rosy Walker, who kept up the nostalgic theme when recalling her regular trips to the cinema as a young girl, then later as a newlywed meeting her parents in town and going for tea.