Cinemas

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.

Gaiety Cinema

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.

Gaiety Cinema, Roath, Cardiff

The Gaiety Grand in 1913 not long after it had been opened.

 

Gaiety Cinema, City Road, Roath, Cardiff

Gaiety Cinema, City Road, Roath, around 1912

 

Gaiety, Roath, Cardiff, advert 1948

Advert from 1948 showing the Gaiety as part of the Splott Circuit of cinemas.

Gaiety Cinema, City Road, Roath, Cardiff

The Gaiety with it’s neon advertising signs (Picture: ITV Wales)

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.

Gaiety Bingo, City Road, Roath, Cardiff

Gaiety Bingo Club in the early 1970s.

Gaiety, City Road, Cardiff

Interior of the Gaiety (Photo: David Lloyd)

Gaiety Bingo Hall, City Road, Cardiff

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.

Gaiety cinema, City Road, Roath, Cardiff

Interior shots of the Gaiety. All were taken when the building ceased being a cinema but some of the original features probably remain (photo credits: 1. David Lloyd,  2-4 Leighton Parker).

City Road, Cardiff

The Gaiety revived as Spin bar and bowling but not for long,

 

Gaiety Cinema, City Road - Dec 2018

Gaiety Cinema, City Road – Dec 2018, awaiting demolition.

 

Splott Cinema

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.

Spott CInema, Cardiff, original exterior

Said the be the exterior of the original Splott Cinema before it was rebuilt in the 1930s

 

Splott Cinema, Cardiff

Splott Cinema, Agate Street, Cardiff in 1961 showing the film Elmer Gantry in which Burt Lancaster won an Oscar for his role as a fast-talking, hard-drinking travelling salesman.


Splott map 1920 showing Splott Picture house

The map of Splott in 1920 shows the cinema described as a picture house. To the east is Roath Station.


Splott Cinema presentation

A presentation of an award to one of the staff at Splott Cinema (picture credit: Pauline Taylor)

Splott Cinema, Cardiff - interior

Inside Splott Cinema


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.

Splott Bingo Hall, 2007

Splott Bingo, 2007 – (Photo credit: Roath Park Mark on Flickr)

Splott Bingo Hall interior, Cardiff


Splott Bingo Hall

Splott Bingo Hall interior taken after the hall had closed down (Photo credit: Gareth Whieldon)

 


Shaddai Christian Centre, Splott, Cardiff

Splott Cinema building in later years. 2008 as a Bingo Hall (photo: David Lloyd). 2012 as the Shaddai Christian Centre. 2015 as an empty building and 2018 demolished (pictures: Google)


Splott Bingo Hall fire 2015

Splott cinema fire and aftermath in March 2015.  More than 60 properties had to be evacuated after the fire broke out with homes in Pearl St, Agate St and Diamond St affected.  (Picture Credits: Wales Online)


 

 

More about Cinemas soon!

Gaiety Cinema, Roath, Cardiff

The Gaiety Grand in 1913 not long after it had been opened.