Going to the cinema used to be a popular pastime and there were a fair collection of cinemas in our area of interest i.e. Roath, Splott and Adamsdown etc.
The Gaiety cinema on City Road opened in 1912 when it was called the Gaiety Grand Cinema. The picture of the cinema in 1913 advertises the main feature as ‘Thor , lord of the jungles’ (1913). In architectural terms it is described as having twin domed cylinders and central arcade flanked by an Ionic colonnade. It was initially able to seat 800 patrons and thought also to have a roller rink at some stage. It was re-modelled and enlarged with a balcony added in 1934 by architect William S. Wort and opened on 29th August 1934 with the seating capacity increased to 1,518. An advertisement from 1948 shows it was part of the Splott Circuit of cinemas. From 1956 it became part of the Jackson Withers Circuit of cinemas.
The Gaiety Cinema closed as a in 1961 becoming a bingo hall under such names as Top Rank Hall and Mecca Bingo club. The history of the club and pictures can be found on the Playing Bingo website and David Lloyd’s memories as a caller. The building ceased being a bingo venue in 1994. After closure as a bingo hall the building was unused for a while. Eventually it was re-modeled internally to two floors, for 10-pin bowling and bar/restaurant with many of the original features removed but the domes were restored. The Spin bar and bowling opened in 2001 but closed for a final time on Sunday 12th February 2006 and subsequently deteriorated.
Through the years, the building changed hands many times. In 2012 it was occupied by squatters and they renamed the building Gremlin Alley Social Centre and daubed it with messages supporting the homeless. Their plan was to turn the currently disused and run-down old bowling alley into a people’s project, a centre for the community to care and share alike their skills, hobbies, passions and pleasures together. Presumably the group were evicted before their plans came to fruition. A planning application to turn the site into a bar and restaurant was granted in 2013 but nothing has come of the proposals. Its distinctive twin domes are still in place but thought to be awaiting demolition.
Splott Cinema in Agate Street opened in 1913 and had 750 seats. It was extended and modified in the 1920’s with a planned balcony which does not appear to have been completed. The building underwent a major re-build by local architect William S. Wortin 1930 when the ‘talkies’ came along and its capacity increased to 2000. The Splott Cinema proudly boasted that it was the first cinema to be built for “talking picture” in Cardiff. It was headquarters of the Splott (Cardiff) Cinema Co Ltd circuit who owned ten cinemas in Cardiff.
It closed as a cinema in 1961 and then became a bingo hall. It was very successful and continued in business, albeit under several owners/names, including a Top Rank Bingo Club, a Mecca Bingo Club. It was closed in June 2009 as a Riva Bingo Club. (See the Playing Bingo website for history and more photos of the hall). The building was then used briefly as the Shaddai Christian centre before becoming vacant. The empty building was destroyed by fire on 23rd February 2015. The building was eventually demolished around 2016.