Huthwaite was introduced to earliest days of big screen entertainment at the first Gem Picture House.
Proposals for building a new Huthwaite cinema are suggested to date from 1914. That year does coincide with a Tomlinson family moving from Skegby, who took over this past 203 Sutton Road newsagents. Their name became synonymous running the nearby Huthwaite Lyric, but finding premature death of Harry Tomlinson in 1932 dismisses widely claimed beliefs of that cinema once being run by this husband and wife.
The report reveals his full time duty had been clerk at New Hucknall Offices, leaving his widow with two children to continue the shop business. It was in fact their young daughter that audiences fondly recalled sold them sweets, and Miss Dorothy Tomlinson became a familiar figure working this cinema.
The first plans I find for a new cinema date from 1916, when a Mr M Howard offered proposals to site one on Sutton Road cornering Beech Avenue. Its unclear if he represented directors who did eventually prove successful, as they, nor an actual opening date is yet verified. Appropriate licencing is claimed first dating from as early as 1st February 1918, although it must be assumed the Great War delayed any constructions.
It was a Nottingham company based at Bentinck Buildings, Wheeler Gate, named as Reliance Pictures Ltd, who finally built and owned their grandly titled Huthwaite Lyric Picture Palace. Prominently situated facing the main Sutton Road, between Mill Lane entrance and the adjacent Cemetery Lodge House, opening date is so far best recalled around year 1920, backed up by the announcement that four hours of films will be then continuously shown starting 6pm.
First photo showing very clean exterior may present 1921 update, after adding a heating chamber within a newer front entrance. A new front lantern room, side walls and roof repairs realised further improvements during year 1922.
Fully titled the Lyric Picture Palace, many residents have shared fond childhood memories of attending Saturday afternoon matinees in this locally recognised "Flea Pit" or "Bug Hut". The Lyric was designed to seat 350, but often crammed far more, so in cosy confined warmth audiences could even be treated to a liberal spraying of insecticide.
A small stage invited live acts on Friday night "Turns". Mind readers and especially comedians gave alternative family entertainment. It was nonetheless the stars on big screen who regularly attracted and enthralled audiences of all ages. A talkies era leapt to the forefront following 1927 release of The Jazz Singer, and this musical hit claims setting new global standards for motion pictures with synchronised dialogue, boosting wider appeal for American films.
Birth of sound is promoted by 1932 Free Press advertisements, as the Lyric Theatre begins to proclaim itself grandly
The Picture Palace with the Silver Screen and the Golden Voice.
Adding the arrival of colour movies, the Huthwaite news column of August further notes that
All the latest improvements have been incorporated in the apparatus at the Lyric Theatre, and it is now, both in projecting and recording, one of the most perfect systems that can be met with. A first-class selection of films has been secured for the autumn season, and one of the earliest will be "King of Jazz," a masterpiece in colour.
Mr Hirst is found managing the Lyric Picture House in 1932, featuring a special programme in aid of raising funds for the Old Peoples Treat Committee. He further takes charge of providing some welcoming entertainment for 366 children and teachers in 1940, including a large party of visitors on a holiday break from Southend.
Plusher comforts may well have been earlier fitted in numerous Sutton cinemas. They, like those at Kirkby and Stanton Hill, competitively advertised in the Free Press, whereas Huthwaite Lyric confined promotions only regularly found throughout 1932. While it did manage to keep a local audience happy, they suggest the business was being running on a far tighter budget. That same year finds a Nottinghamshire directory identifying Reliance Pictures Ltd as proprietors of the Lyric Picture Palace, where my grandfathers brother was an attendant. A young Joseph Elliott gained useful electrical interests, which next promoted him to assistance projectionist at Kings Picture Palace, Kirkby, shortly before WWII. It was claimed the Lyric displayed a plaque listing all past employees, but his name is only lastingly listed still on the neighbouring Huthwaite War Memorial.
Living memories noted and kindly shared by Mrs Betty Smith adds these names of some other known Lyric workers, while sharing the following description perceived through her own excited teenaged visits under the maiden name Miss Fox.
Assistant Manager: George Gene - Projectionist: Arthur Cox / Kit Weaver
Ticket Office: Joe Walker / Nelly Stone / Dorothy Tomlinson
Pianist: Arthur Gunby - Caretaker: Mr Cheetham - Cleaner: Miss Cheetham
Others: George Blow / Gordon Whalley / Alan Hill / Derek Vardy / Joe Walker
Saturdays for most of us in Huthwaite was our most exciting day. We had to go to the Lyric to see if the baddies won the goodies or vice versa. The serials kept us going back weekly.
The Lyric was owned and run by the Tomlinson's who kept the paper shop opposite. Inside double doored central entrance, a glass case on the left was filled with forthcoming attractions. The lucky chance to get a displayed photograph of stars removed from this case would be a rare prized possession. Stood in awe at sighting photos of Alan Ladd, we didn't know he was a little man who had to stand on a box to look tall.
The small ticket office on the right was a 2ft square window with a half moon cut out the glass. Dorothy Tomlinson was the ticket seller who always wore a smiley face, looking like the tight box had been built around her before doubly serving as an usherette. Children formed a long queue around the cinema, all clutching a Saturday penny in readiness for 2 o'clock shows. We had to get there early to take our places in line. A lot of pushing and shoving as some bullied forward, plus cheering as Mr Wall stepped off a 101 bus.
Nobody liked sitting at the front, because the first three rows were wooden church pews and kids sitting behind would push the backrest back and forth. You also got neck ache having to look up at the close screen. We had to sit three on a seat, some of them wet with rain leaking through the roof. At least we hoped it was rain! The seats were very lumpy, we thought giving reason why lads kept running about. A Mr Wall who watchfully paraded blocking views, would switch on the lights stopping the film if it got too rowdy.
Post of manager first held by Mr Hirst was notably filled from 1946 by a Mr Alfred Wall from Sutton. Mr Wall is credited with organising variety shows and concerts for charity through the war years, and a veteran at running other local cinemas. Following their controversial decision to open doors on a holy sabbath day, Huthwaite Lyric Theatre projected Sunday films from October 1949. Research by Trevor Lee adds fact that Mr Wall's promotional skills were also put to good use on the Huthwaite Carnival Committee. Star guest opening that 1954 event was Derek Bond, He afterwards accompanied the newly crowned Carnival Queen into the Lyric Cinema, showing by no coincidence "Scott of the Antarctic" featuring the man himself.
Alfred Wall went on to take over the Ritz Cinema at Golcar, leaving the Lyric March 1955 in the sole hands of a now recognised director Miss Tomlinson. Dorothy appears quite capable of running this little Picture Palace herself, but a frequently changing variety of programmes could not attract back a general decline amongst regular cinema goers. Reasons for this could be considered numerous. Not least of which, came rising popularity and affordability of better television sets, beaming this marvel of entertainment into homes.
After showing the film "The Harder they Fall", on Saturday 8th December 1956, the Lyric doors finally closed. I'm reliably informed that Miss Tomlinson later married to become a mother named Mrs Dorothy Bradley, while of course, inviting any further historical knowledge concerning the past Lyric among other subjects.
The property retained a familiar frontage when industrially taken over by Kingswood and Morris Joiners. Mr Morris himself is shown courtesy of his son Glen, when surveying demolition resulting from next takeover..
A total rebuild followed original footprint, to present modern workshops serving P&L Bodyworks until ending year 2012. A short period as a car showroom then witnesses the Sutton Road frontage being updated since under a variety of other new enterprising business names.
Written 03 May 13 Revised 15 Oct 15 © by Gary Elliott