A country cinema that was run by entire family

The Embassy cinema in West Street, Fareham
The Embassy cinema in West Street, Fareham
Two clerks on duty in James Taylors offices in Old Portsmouth. 			 (Robert James collection)

BOB HIND: How ways of doing business have changed from the old days

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After the old Alexandra cinema in West Street, Fareham, closed in 1933, the site remained unused for five years.

Then, in 1938, the luxurious Embassy was built on the same spot.

The Alexandra cinema in West Street, Fareham

The Alexandra cinema in West Street, Fareham

It opened on April 19, 1938 and the admission prices were 6d, 9d and one shilling (5p) for seats in the stalls. If you wanted to sit in the circle, seats would set you back 1s 3d and 1s 6d (7p).

The first main film was Doctor Syn starring George Arliss.

Although it had competition from the Savoy only 100 yards farther along West Street, the Embassy survived the Savoy by 24 years until it closed in 1983.

The town was then left without a main cinema for 22 years, although in that time the Ferneham Hall presented films between stage shows.

The front of the Alexandra cinema during the silent film era

The front of the Alexandra cinema during the silent film era

The Alexandra presented live stage entertainment in its early years, but began showing films from about 1910 under Thomas Flemons the proprietor.

It was Fareham’s first regular picture house and was very much a country cinema. Folk from the outlying areas of Titchfield, Wickham, Park Gate and Warsash would flock there for their regular helping of Charlie Chaplin, Pearl White and Rudolph Valentino.

Mr Flemons’s wife Kathleen was a pianist in the orchestra as well as an usherette, his son Raymond was a violinist and another son, Sidney, was the projectionist.

By all accounts the orchestra played to a high standard to accompany the action during the silent film era. In the early days live stage acts performed between the films.

The Alexandra was completely rebuilt in 1928 when William Bonwick became the proprietor, but this old picture house was deemed far too small for an expanding town and it closed its doors on December 19, 1933.

The last film shown was Central Airport starring Richard Barthelmess and Sally Eilers.

More pictures of old picture houses and theatres across the Portsmouth area can be found in Ron Brown’s book Cinemas and Theatres of Portsmouth From Old Photographs published by Amberley at £12.99.