Rain was like Fred Astaire tap dancing on your head

The Savoy cinema in West Street, Fareham
The Savoy cinema in West Street, Fareham
Share this article
Artist Jean Tayler talks to her therapist Shirley Mungapen about her paintings

THIS WEEK IN 1975: For her, success is something special

Have your say

The main picture was taken in the 1930s and shows the Savoy cinema in West Street, Fareham. It was part of the then new Savoy Buildings. This picture house opened in 1933, a few months after the Alexandra cinema closed farther along West Street.

The Savoy opened with Hell Below starring Robert Montgomery and it boasted the last word in luxury with 1,000 comfortable seats and equipped with the very latest and most expensive Ernimann projectors.

The Picturedrome, Avenue Road, Gosport, about 1910

The Picturedrome, Avenue Road, Gosport, about 1910

Sadly, the life of the Savoy was not that long for it closed in 1959 and the adjacent Woolworth’s store later expanded into the cinema site as part of the new Fareham precinct development.

The photo inset shows one of the first cinemas in Gosport – the Picturedrome in Avenue Road.

Build of wood and corrugated iron, it had previously served as a Baptist chapel. This led to the Picturedrome being given the nickname of The Tin Tabernacle.

It began life as a cinema in 1910 and with its vast metal roof, when it rained the sound could be horrendous, rather like Fred Astaire dancing on your head.

The Olympia cinema, Stoke Road, Gosport, about 1927

The Olympia cinema, Stoke Road, Gosport, about 1927

Apart from having a hose and buckets of water available, this cinema could not be described as fireproof.

This was confirmed on the night of February 26, 1916, when the Picturedrome caught fire and was burned to the ground.

A block of flats named Avenue Chambers has stood on the site for many years.

The old Olympia cinema was in Stoke Road, Gosport.

It became a cinema in 1914 having previously been a roller skating rink.

The original building had a tin roof and suffered similar hazards to the Picturedrome when it rained. At such times rain would collect in front of the screen and the Olympia orchestra would play with their feet on chairs.

With the arrival of talkies this popular cinema was modernised and got a quieter and more waterproof roof, but this did not save it from closure in 1935.

The pictures are from Ron Brown’s Cinemas and Theatre of Portsmouth From Old Photographs.