The Lounge Cinema
In 1980, the Lounge Cinema auditorium was incorporated into the Joyland complex, the Esplanade foyer being taken over by John Ling's amusement arcade. This deleted section tells the story of this much-loved Bridlington cinema.
The Lounge Cinema auditorium was located midway between Esplanade and Promenade, immediately adjacent to Joyland.
The Lounge started out as Field’s Oriental Café on Esplanade, which had previously opened in a former sea front villa (coincidentally, it started in one of the units that would later be occupied by Joyland). In 1897, Hull-based grocers Fields acquired Sandon House, to enable them to create a much larger Oriental Café. Sandon House was set back from Esplanade and had a large, walled front garden. Fields built the new, larger Oriental Café on the front garden of Sandon House, to designs by Smith and Broderick of Hull. In the remaining walled garden behind the Café, Fields constructed the ‘Garden of a Thousands Lights’, a beautiful fairytale wonderland. In 1901 the land behind became the glass-covered Winter Gardens. This was converted to a skating rink in 1909, then to a concert hall in 1911. It received its first cinematograph license in 1912. The Bioscope Magazine of 7th November 1912 reported:
“Messrs. Fields have obtained a cinematograph license for their famous Fields Oriental Lounge in the Esplanade, there is one condition and that is that two exits must be kept open through the Gardens at all times, and the cinema must be closed Sundays.”
Introducing an entrance to Promenade as well as Esplanade created the required two exits. The interior of the Oriental Lounge was completely remodelled in 1914 to a scheme by Blackmore and Sykes Architects. The Bioscope Magazine of 18th July 1914 reported the changes to the building and the Promenade frontage:
“The Promenade façade has been faced with faience, with blue and gold mosaic. A pair of mahogany swing doors led to a beautiful foyer leading to a large lounge café where pictures are exhibited. A handsome domed ceiling and interior decorations are in elaborate artistic plasterwork.”
In June 1927, more work was undertaken on the foyer and concert hall at the Esplanade side of the building, transforming it into “one of the finest cafes and concert rooms on the coast”. It was gutted by fire three months later but reopened the following year as the Esplanade Café and Lounge Theatre. The theatre was showing ‘talkies’ in 1931 (renamed the ‘Lounge Cinema’), the first film being ‘The Trespasser’, starring Gloria Swanson. The hall could seat 986 people and the proscenium was 32 feet wide.
During and after the war years, legendary band leader Ivy Benson would play in the Lounge Theatre with her All Girls Band. Crowds would flock to the Lounge to watch her play over afternoon tea. She would later go on to be the BBC’s resident dance band, star in films, and did seasons at London’s Covent Garden. Audrey Black of the adjacent Bay View Amusements remembers this fondly:
“I can picture it now. They had this sweeping staircase up both sides. Ivy Benson was downstairs in the middle on a dais, with the restaurant all the way round. And beautiful music; it was lovely.”
During the war years, the cinema belonged to the RAF and the Army, as Audrey Black remembers:
“It was somewhere for the men to eat. They all used to line up and go in there. The Esplanade side of the Lounge was the canteen. They all used to line up with their knives and forks. They used to have two men on guard all night outside. We used to make them coffee and take it down for them!”
At the Promenade end was the Palm Court restaurant. Access to the Cinema could be taken through the Palm Court from Promenade but, as local Bridlington boy Terry Waddington remembers, in the 1940s and 1950s the Palm Court was never as popular as the Esplanade end:
“The Palm Court never seemed to have many people in it whenever we went to the movies. The entrance to the cinema was around the back of the Palm Court, so you could see who was in there…They ran a lot of cowboy movies on weekends to compete with the ABC Minors which ran similar films for kids on Saturdays. I think the entry cost was a couple of pence at the time.”
During the 1950s, the Cinema itself gradually declined, due partly to the introduction of television. By the mid-1950s, the Lounge Cinema had a screen of some 20 feet in width and 12 feet in height. It was capable of showing the new developments in cinema introduced in that period, such as Wide Screen and Cinemascope. To achieve this, the number of seats had been reduced to 855. There was a brief respite in the late 1950s, through the introduction of ‘epic’ films and musicals, but by 1961, attendance levels had dropped significantly, to such an extent that the Cinema was no longer viable. Despite attempts by management to boost attendances by changing the programme three times weekly, it finally closed on 28th October 1961, the last film being ‘Double Bunk’, starring Ian Carmichael and Liz Fraser. Other cinemas in the town suffered a similar fate, with the Roxy closing in 1962 and the Regal in 1972.
A unique feature of the Lounge Cinema, which resulted from its conversion from a music hall, was that the picture was projected from behind the screen. This is because there was no room in the building for a projection room.
The main cinema auditorium was used occasionally during the 1960s and 1970s for dancing and even wrestling, but none of these uses really took off. One feature of the Lounge Cinema that few people are aware of was the existence of some 150ft of underground passageways under the cinema for access and egress.
The former Palm Court restaurant area fronting onto Promenade remained open long after the closure of the Lounge Cinema, as the New Lounge, a licensed bar and restaurant. In February 1982, the New Lounge was acquired by brothers Ken and Charles Walker and converted to a nightclub and restaurant and renamed Mountbattens. The acquisition was financed by Brian Walker, the man behind the Walkers Tussauds waxworks exhibitions, to the tune of £212,788.23. It was intended for the loss of the Lounge Cinema to be remedied by the addition of a new late night movie theatre for young couples and newlyweds to be accommodated behind the kitchens. The ceilings in Mountbattens were lowered, thus obscuring much of the original décor of opulence. Mountbattens’ subsequent introduction of Snoopy’s Bar (1984) across the frontage contributed further to this. Mountbattens was badly damaged by fire in 1985, and the property was eventually sold in that same year for £245,000. Had it not been presented as a going concern, at that time it would have been likely for suitors to come in and create another open-plan walk-through amusement complex. In more recent years, the New Lounge restaurant has become Liberty’s Nightclub. The entrance to the cinema was uncovered during the refurbishment of the Liberty’s nightclub, and was then used as a cloakroom. Then, in 2016, during the conversion of Liberty's into apartments and shops the original Lounge sign was revealed and photographed by Barrie Dixon (see photograph on the right).
The Esplanade foyer entrance became part of John Ling’s arcade, and is now Loop bar/restaurant.
The Cinema auditorium itself was acquired by the Brown family to become part of Joyland and still forms part of the present Forum complex.
An early photograph of Esplanade. The gap in the Esplanade frontage that can clearly be seen in this photograph is Sandon House, which was set back from the other properties. It would eventually de demolished and become the Lounge Cinema. Photograph: Bridlington Library
1950s view of the
Esplanade entrance to the Lounge Cinema. Photograph: Bridlington
Deleted Photograph: A rare photograph of the Promenade entrance to the Lounge Cinema, taken in September 1950. The main Lounge Cinema auditorium became part of Joyland in 1979, and in 1997, the cinema auditorium was again used as a cinema as the new Forum three-screen cinema. The Promenade entrance to the Lounge is now Liberty’s nightclub. Photograph: Bridlington Library
Deleted Photograph: A rarely seen view of the Lounge Cinema auditorium taken from an upper room of the former County Club (now the Old Penny Memories Museum). This became part of the Joyland funfair in 1980, and now houses the Forum Cinema. Photograph: Nick Laister
New Photograph: The original sign for The Lounge is revealed in 2016 during redevelopment works following the closure of Liberty's nightclub. Click on image for a larger version. Photograph: Barrie Dixon