Saturday, 26 January 2008

The History Of The Tivoli Cinema, Chesterton Road...

The Tivoli building as it is today.

A new venture, The Olympia Tea and Concert Rooms, was proposed for the site which would become the Tivoli Cinema in 1920. By March 1921, the plans had evolved and an application for a provisional licence was made by Mr GA Wooten, on behalf of Tom Oakey "in respect of the proposed new cinema for Chesterton Road." The provisional licence was sought before work began on the building - and was granted, under the condition that a wall between the cinema and the Spring Hotel was erected down to the River Cam at a height of six feet.

In the autumn of 1923, an advertisement appeared in the Cambridge Daily News:


An opportunity occurs for a very limited number of SHARES in a Cinema Proposition in Cambridge (Chesterton District). Would those interested communicate, stating amount prepared to invest in satisfactory proposition to -

BOX X.Y.Z., "Daily News" Office, Cambridge.

The management of the Rendezvous Cinema in Magrath Avenue placed an announcement in the CDN the following day:

The Management of the Rendezvous Cinema wish to state that the advertisement appearing in this column last night, with reference to SHARES in "CINEMA PROPOSITION," in no way refers to The Rendezvous Cinema, or any undertaking of the management.

A few days later, a final announcement appeared:


Occurs for Investment in Sound Cinema Proposition (Chesterton District, Main Road). If interested, apply, stating amount (if considered satisfactory) you are prepared to invest to -

BOX X.Y.Z., "Daily News" Office, Cambridge.

N.B. - This is positively the last advertisement to appear. Replies will be sent to all letters received in due course.

In June 1924, work began on the cinema for the newly formed Chesterton Cinema Company. The work was delayed by a prolonged strike, and the building was completed in early March 1925. It was estimated that the actual time spent erecting the building had only been twenty weeks.

The architect was Geoffrey P Banyard, of 4a, Market Street, Cambridge.

The Cambridge Chronicle & University Journal reported:

The site has a frontage of 52 feet to Chesterton Road, with a depth of 116 feet, the back extending to the edge of the River Cam; the height of the building is 35 feet above the level of the pavement. The front and ends are faced with red bricks with stone dressings; there is a portico extending the full width of the front at pavement level, with a balcony at first floor level spanned by a bold semi-circular arch, which in turn is surmounted by a pediment in stone, carrying an electric torch bracket and flagstaff; this constitutes the central feature of the front. The balcony is flanked on either side by wings, wherein are situate the manager's office, motor generator room, staircases, etc.; these are also faced with red bricks with stone dressings and stone pediments at top, the whole making a very imposing elevation.

From the entrance vestibule are the two entrances to the auditorium, also the two staircases leading to the balcony. The gentlemen's cloak room is located off the entrance hall and the ladies' cloak room off one of the staircases leading to the balcony. The operator's box and re-winding room are situate over the entrance vestibule, and are approached from the outside by means of the front balcony.

The auditorium is 80 feet long x 36 feet wide, and the projection is 90 feet to the screen. The seating accommodation in the auditorium is 450, and the slope in the floor from the entrance vestibule to the screen is 7 feet. There are five exit doors on the ground floor in addition to the entrance doors. The screen is 20 feet by 19 feet, and is covered by electrically operated curtains, with special lighting effects.

The balcony on the first floor has a span of 36 feet, and has accommodation for 150 seats; the rake of the auditorium and also the balcony floor is such as to give an uninterrupted view of the screen from every seat, and a private box for about ten people is placed centrally at the back of the balcony. The ventilation of the building is carried out by an electric fan which extracts the air through trunks arranged in the roof from the ceiling grids, and the system is such as to give a complete change of air in the hall in the space of a few minutes. The electric installation has been made a special feature, the lamps being hidden in six large domes placed in the main ceiling and two smaller domes under the balcony; each dome is fitted with 120 lamps, giving a reflected light with coloured tint effects, and dimmer operation. The lighting during the showing of the picture is so arranged that the gangways and access to all seats can be distinctly seen, and the necessity for the attendants to carry hand torches is obviated. The architect has also made a special feature of the interior decoration and ornament, and the general colour scheme consists of blue at floor level, which graduates through brown and orange tints to a pale blue ceiling.

On Monday, March 16th, 1925, local magistrates granted the licences necessary for the Tivoli to open. The application was made in the name of "George Wheatley, 34, St Barnabas Road, manager". The hours for the exhibition of films were to be from 2pm to 11pm, with some slight allowances made for films over running. A dancing licence was also granted, not for public dancing, but for "turns" booked to appear between films.

On the 19th of March, the Tivoli, billed as "Chesterton's Super Cinema", made its debut. It was the sixth cinema in what was then the town of Cambridge, and the second purpose built structure.


More about The Tivoli soon.

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