Known locally as the ‘Woody Picture House’ the old Ritz Cinema has been a local landmark for almost a century now.
Once there were two other cinemas in Rothwell district. The Ritz was the last cinema out of the three to survive and closed in the early 70’s. The cinema was built in 1919 by Mr Norman Hargreaves, of Woodlesford, who formed the West Yorkshire Cinema Ltd. It was taken over by the Star Group in 1948
It is listed under Leeds in the 1931 & 1944 Kinematograph Year Books as the Woodlesford Picture House. The cinema was equipped with a Western Electrict(WE) sound system.
An interesting newspaper article from 1971 interviewed the then Ritz manager, Mr Fred Harrison:
Mr Harrison, a Normanton man, first started working in cinemas when he was 12. “I was the re-wind boy at the Normanton Empire and when I was 15 I became one of the youngest projectionists in the business,” he said.
He came to Rothwell 12 years ago and is pleased with the way things have gone for the Ritz. “We have successfully overcome the present difficulties in the cinema business,” he said as he explained what he thinks are the principal causes of concern in the industry.
Rise in costs – “The increases in film hiring has meant we have had to put our prices up and at the same time the increase in bus fares has handicapped us even more.”
Ritz patrons were mainly family parties and the present trend of X and AA certificates didn’t help business.
“Our most successful pictures are family films like Walt Disney productions or the ‘Railway Children’ type.”
One gratifying statistic is that the 411 Woodlesford Ritz leads the company’s ‘league’ for ice-cream sales.
During 1953 students from Woodlesford Primary School were taken to Woodlesford cinema to watch a film of the Queen’s Coronation and many people from the area have fond memories of the cinema as a staple part of the community and their weekend ritual of relaxation and socialisation.
Following its closure as a cinema, it then became a bingo hall, followed by a snooker hall and is now a children’s play centre.
Do you remember the Ritz Cinema? Did you work there or know anyone that did? Do you have any memories or stories to tell of the building when it became a bingo hall or did you play snooker there? If so, please share with us all in the comments section below.