It’s 50 years since The Moderne Cinema in Moordown showed its final feature film. Now the building has reopened its doors to the community as a cinema – having been restored to its former Art Deco glory by Bournemouth Community Church.
In 1963 a Peter Sellers black and white comedy called The Wrong Arm of the Law played to audiences at the Cinema Moderne.
It was the last feature film to be shown there before the building became a Gala Bingo hall and parts of its chic interior were replaced by garish colours and cheap furniture.
But on Wednesday 20th February 2013, 50 years later, the renovated building opened its doors as a cinema once again, this time showing full colour blockbuster, The Hobbit, to 300 members of the community.
“A lot of the older people in the community remember going to the cinema here in the fifties and sixties and wanted to see films played in the building once again,” says Greg Rawlings, Operations and events manager for Bournemouth Community Church.
The church purchased the empty building in 2009 and for the past two and a half years has been renovating it in its original Art Deco style, reopening it as a community and events venue called the Life Centre.
As part of its events listings the Life Centre will play family films once a month on Saturday mornings.
“The building first started life as a theatre and now we have gone back to using it how it was originally intended to raise money for the church and also because it is something that the community wanted to see,” says Greg.
“We also want to do some themed evenings. We are looking to do one for the latest James Bond movie with the guys turning up in tuxedos and the girls in cocktail dresses – with a meal beforehand.”
Around £1.25m has been spent replacing the garish colours of the bingo hall with a stylish Art Deco inspired interior.
However, some of the original features of the building have been kept to give it even more character. The swinging double doors at the entrance are still there and the balcony is exactly the same with 450 original flip up leather seats
“Because it was an Art Deco building and all of the architecture was in that style we wanted to keep it like that,” says Greg.
“But we worked with an interior designer to make the rest of the theatre funkier and more vibrant, its art-deco with a twist.”
The Original Moderne Cinema
Musician Al Kirtley, 71, lived in Moordown until 1966 and has fond memories of the original Moderne.
“I started going to the Saturday Morning Picture Show when I was 7 years old and I carried on going to the Moderne until 1956.”
Saturday morning showings at the original Moderne were aimed at children, as well as a film there were cartoons, a Pathe News reel, and the serial which always had a cliff-hanger ending to make sure the children returned the next week.
“You used to have to pay sixpence to sit in the stalls and 9 pence to go upstairs.”
The Moderne was built in 1936, designed by Edward G. De Wilde Holding. In the original cinema the carpets and seating were fake leopard skin and there was a cafe and an ice cream parlour with chrome furniture.
The owners of the Moderne, Portsmouth Town Cinemas, also owned the nearby Ritz cinema. Both cinemas shared the same newsreel and the film would be shown in one venue first before the rewind boy would run across the road and deliver the newsreel to the other.
But Al certainly had a favourite of the two cinemas.
“The modern was the better of the two cinemas, it was bigger and played much better films.”
The Moderne also gave Al his first break into the music business.
“I was in a skiffle band called The Tennessee Tramps when I was 15 years old and somehow we managed to talk our way into doing an interval slot at the Moderne on a Saturday morning before the picture started.”
Skiffle music was popular in Britain in the 1950’s and is played using homemade or improvised instruments.
“None of the children there wanted to see us, they just wanted the picture to start. As I sang my way through all 14 verses of Frankie and Johnnie with a washboard round my neck, the audience began to throw pennies at me. They came to sixpence ha’penny and it was my first paid gig.”
“Anyway, I am delighted to hear it’s going to back to being a cinema!”
For more information about future film showings at the Life Centre/Moderne Cinema visit: http://lifecentre.biz/whats-on.html