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A Cinema at the Corn Exchange (c1913-1934):
During the first decades of the 20th century, films were regularly shown in the Corn Exchange (see Photo Gallery).
The Kinematograph Year Book (KYB) of 1914 (looking retrospectively at the previous year) noted the town had a Cinema owned by Mr Tufnail (of Newbury) - with 300 seats. Mr Tufnail was quite an entrepreneur. He was the lessee of the Skating Rink venture in the Corn Exchange, which had been fitted with a new "First-class Skating Rink" that had opened on Tue 15 Mar 1910. The floor was of Rock Maple, similar to the floor at the "Olympia" Exhibition Hall in London. Mr Tufnail kindly promised to give the whole of the gross takings for the first six days to the Hungerford Fire Brigade. He also set up at least two cinemas in Newbury.
The KYB of 1927 noted the same but owned by John S. Collins – films once nightly prices 5d to 1s 2d.
The KYB of 1929 noted ownership by F.J. Freeman – films three times a week prices 6d to 1s 3d. (KYB information kindly sent Dec 2016 by Eddie Sammons, an Old Newburian living in Spain).
The Regent Cinema (1934-1972):
However, in 1934 a new purpose built cinema, "The Regent", was built by J. Wooldridge & Sons (of The Wharf) on land in Church Way, at the top of Atherton Hill (always known as "Picture Hill").
The Regent was part of the Wantage and Faringdon "circuit", and was said to be owned by Miss Moore from Wantage.
It opened on 22nd November 1934; Lily Ruddle (later Mrs. Griffith) became cashier in January 1935.
During the war, it was always packed with troops of all nationalities, evacuees from the cities, as well as people working in the area, but living away from home. It was one of the few places of entertainment in the area.
In Oct 1942 a mobile cinema toured Hungerford rural district, when shows were given in Hungerford, Lambourn and Kintbury.
The KYB for 1948 and 1949 (looking retrospectively at the previous years) noted ownership by Mrs S Lord Sherbourne of Osmond Street, Wantage. "Continuous shows from 6pm with one show on Sunday. Prices 10p to 2s 9p.".
The KYB 1950 noted ownership by Regent (Hungerford) Ltd, whose address was in Wantage.
In the 1960s, the cashiers were Mrs Hess and Mrs Hayes. Paul Gibbs was a "male usherette".
Eddie Sammons recalled a visit to the Regent Cinema: "When I lived in Newbury (my home town), I visited the Regent only once (probably in 1958 or 1959). It was an unforgettable experience. The main feature was “The Snorkel” with Peter van Eyck (released 5 Jul 1958 - quite a good thriller!). The supporting film was “Future Vedettes” with a young, fully blossomed Brigitte Bardot. She played a trainee singer who, as part of her practice, had to take some very deep breaths. You can envisage the effect upon her anatomy. The effect upon the young lads in the audience was outrageous. I cannot repeat the languages used. I thought they would tear the place apart! I hate to think what might have happened had it been one of her later, more revealing films. Demolition might not have waited until 1974!"
The Regent cinema became unprofitable in the 1960s, closed in 1972, and was demolished in 1974, the houses of Regent Close being built on the site.
- Film poster outside the Corn Exchange
- Advert for The Regent, Hungerford's New Luxury Cinema, Dec 1935
- A J Allen (Sup't St John's Ambulance Brigade), Miss Moore (owner of Regent Cinema), R B Jeal (headmaster of Council School) and Mr Thorn (Assistant headmaster). Possibly when the Corontaion Celebrations were being shown at the cinema, 1937.
- From The Advertiser, 20.9.1988
- Poster advertising the Regent Cinema, 1948
- Miss Moore and Lily Ruddle, c1953
- Outside The Regent Cinema, Queen's Coronation, 2 Jun 1953. Photo includes Miss May Oakes (teacher), Elizabeth Dopson, Peter Dopson, Anne Dopson, Dorothy Wells, Val Richards, ?Linda Underwood.
- Regent Cinema, c1953
- Regent Cinema, 1953
- Regent Cinema, c1972
- Regent Cinema being demolished, Jun 1974