(Belfast Born, Bred And Buttered)
WHEN SALOME DONE A BELLY DANCE OUTSIDE St. PAUL’S CHAPEL.
In the 1950’s a big Hollywood movie was showing in many of the Belfast picture houses, and although it was based around a biblical story it aroused passions in some, indeed many people, for a different reason. Some said it should have been banned and many said they would never go to watch it.. The very thought of watching Salome do a Belly Dance in her legendry “Dance Of The Seven Veils”, her reward being the head of John The Baptist on a plate, was just too much for 1950’s Belfast let alone the Falls Road.
Suddenly on the gable wall advertising hoarding that used to be there right opposite the doorway of St. Paul’s Chapel, an advertisement announcing that “Salome” would be showing that week in the nearby Broadway Picture House, (where Jimmy Steele appeared on stage having escaped from Crumlin Road Jail)and there larger than life was Salome wiggling her belly and casting off her ...well ... fourth or fifth veil.. maybe it was the last veil. It must have been about 10’clock as we kids were coming out of the free dinners in Hawthorne Street when we heard all the commotion from the gathered crowd outside St. Paul’s. Kids being kids, up we go to see what all the fuss was about, and it was just in time to watch the real excitement. A priest came round the side of the chapel carrying a bucket and long handled brush and began tarring over the figure of “Salome”, starting smack on her belly button. The poster was never replaced and the tar hoarding remained like that for a long time attracting curious sightseers. But I think Curran’s the Broadway owners were grateful to the priest for the whole matter was so talked about all over west Belfast, It was better publicity than the poster could ever have been. Talking about old picture Houses maybe it is an idea to republish here the chronology of the many cinema’s in old Belfast, show me the older man and woman who doesn’t have fond memories of the old picture house they frequented as kids.
A CHRONOLOGY OF OLD BELFAST PICTURE HOUSES
ALAMBRA. 800 seats, opened 1872(as theatre) closed 10th Sept,1959.
AMBASSADOR. 1030 Seats, opened 1936, closed 4th march 1972.
APOLLO. 900 seats, opened 1933, closed 1st December 1962.
ARCADIAN. 600 seats, opened 18th December 1912, closed in 1960.
(The Arcadian was also known as "Johnny Donnellys" & "The Arc").
ASTORIA. 1275 seats, opened 1934, closed 17th August 1974.
BROADWAY. 1380 seats, opened 1936, Closed 31st January 1974.
CAPITOL. 1000 seats, opened 1935, closed 11th January, 1975.
CASTLE. 1000 seats, opened 1934, closed 26th March 1966.
THE CENTRAL. 600 seats, opened 22nd December 1913, closed in 1960.
(The Central was nicknamed "The Bughouse", "Fleapit" and "The Cent")
CLASSIC. 1807 seats, opend 1923, closed 30th September 1961.
(The Classic from 1949 until it closed was called the Guamont)
CLONARD. 1100 seats, opened 1913, closed 30th March 1966.
COLISEUM. 900 seats, opened 1911, closed 20th June 1959.
(The Coliseum for the first four years was called the "Alexandria").
CRUMLIN. 1100 seats later increased to 3000, opened in 1936.
(The Crumlin was fondly nicknamed "The Ranch" by its patrons.)
CURZON. 4,000 seats, opened in 1936, originally only had 1500 seats.
DIAMOND, 600 seats, opened 7th February 1920, closed 1959.
DUNCAIRN. 1200 seats, opened 1916, closed 22nd November 1969.
(The Duncairn was fondly known as "The Donkey" by its patrons).
ELECTRIC PICTURE PALACE. 250 SEATS, opened 1910, closed 1915.
(For the last 3 years "The Electric" was known as the "Silver cinema").
FORUM. 1250 seats, opened 1937, closed 28th January 1967.
GAIETY. 968 seats, opened 14th November 1916, closed 1956.
(The Gaiety was famous for its variety shows at Saturday matinees)
GRAND OPERA HOUSE. as a cinema, 1949 to 7th April 1972.
HIPPODROME. 1800 seats, opened 1935, the Hippodrome became the "ODEON" in 1961..and then the "NEW VIC", in 1974 with only 1200 seats.(The huge balcony seating in the Hippodrome was known as "The Gods")
IMPERIAL. 1000 seats, opened 1914, closed 28th November 1959.
(The Imperial was nicknamed "The Mint" as in Mint Imperial).
KELVIN PICTURE PALACE. opened in 1933, changed to "New Kelvin" in 1934then to "Mayfair" in 1944, then to "News And Cartoons" in 1959, thento "Classic" in 1970...then it finally closed 1st January 1972.
KINEMA HOUSE. 550 seats, opened 7th April 1914, closed 1919.
THE LIDO. 1050 seats, opened 28th March 1855, closed 1970.
(The Lido was converted as a temporary Catholic Chapel, St Mary's)
LYCEUM. 900 seats, opened 1916, closed 29th April 1966.
MAJESTIC. 1400 seats, opened 1936, closed 4th October 1975.
MIDLAND PICTURE HOUSE. 2000 seats, opened 1916, closed 1941.
NEW PRINCESS PALACE. 1000 seats, opened 1910, closed 1960
PRINCESS PICTURE PALACE. 1200 seats, opened 1910, closed 1926.
(Above was known as "Old Princess Palace" between 1923-1926)
NEW YORK. 750 seats, opened 1916, closed 31st December 1922.
PANOPTICON. 335 seats, opened 1912, closed 31st December 1926.
(The above was also known as "The Lyric" between 1924-1941)
PARK CINEMA. 1200 seats, opened 1936, closed 27th May 1972.
BELFAST PICTUREDROME. 1000 seats, opened 1911, closed 1970.
BELFAST PICTURE HOUSE. 850 seats, opened 1911, closed 1982.
(Above was also known as the "Regent" and "The Avenue")
THE POPULAR. 1100 seats, opened 30th October 1917, closed 1972.
QUEENS. 800 seats, opened 1915, closed 15th April 1941.
REGAL CINEMA. 1380 seats, opened 1935, closed 7th January 1967.
RITZ. 2219 seats, opened 9th October 1936, closed 1981.
(Ritz was the "ABC FILM CENTRE" for the last years of its life)
ROYAL CINEMA. 920 seats, opened 1916, closed 1961.
SANDRO. 700 seats, opened 1919, closed 2nd September 1961.
SAVOY. 1250 seats, opened 5th November 1934, closed 1967.
(Above was fondly referred to as "The Cabbage" by its patrons)
SHAFTESBURY PICTORIA. 200 seats, opened 1910, closed 1917.
SHANKILL PICTUREDROME. 1400 seats, opened 1910, closed 1958.
STADIUM. 1400 seats, opened 1937, closed 13th March 1976.
STAR PICTURE PALACE. opened 14th September 1908, closed 1915.
St GEORGES HALL. 1500 seats, opened 1908, closed as cinema 1916.
STRAND. 1170 seats. opened 1935, closed 1983 (reopened later).
TIVOLI. (Pound Loney) opened July 1918, closed February 1920.
TIVOLI. (Finaghy) 1000 seats, opened 1955, closed 7th June 1975.
TROXY. 1154 seats, opened 1936, closed 15th July 1977.
(The Troxy was known as the "Grove" from 1965 till 1977).
WEST END. 1150 seats, opened 9th October 1913, closed 1960.
WILLOWFIELD. 1000 seats, opened 20th December 1915, closed 1971.
WINDSOR. 1250 seats, opened 23rd March 1935, closed 1970.
I bet those names conjured up some lovely memories of happy days.
Well, I have ran out of space but would have loved to have continued on with the many other aspects of this wee town of ours. Belfast and its people are unique, we have warred with each other, insulted each other, called each other names, yet there is one name you can call each and everyone of us all day long and we would never be offended, “Belfast People,” it’s the one name we all would never deny and stand up proud for . “Belfast People”. it describes the Shankill people, the Falls, Ardoyne and Sandy Row. We have done a lot of shouting at each other maybe it is time to get down to talking , real grass root talking for there are plenty of people holding out the hand.
And the last word......
The news reader on Radio Ulster has just announced, “A lorry has broking down on the West Link”. “BROKING” down?.. I hope she doesn’t step in too many POODLES on her way home.
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This little book is dedicated to my late parents Jim and Kitty Graham.
and to my Grandchildren, Daniella, Joseph, Sean and Deborah.