Next year is the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the moving picture show which we now know as cinema.
Few people realise that Horsham was one of the first towns to witness this modern marvel!
On November 25 and 26 1896, a Moving Picture Show was demonstrated at the Kings Head Assembly Rooms, in Horsham, to an amazed audience.
Soon travelling film shows began popping up in Village Halls all around West Sussex.
The first purpose-built cinema in Horsham was The Central Picture Hall opened in North Street in 1910.
This was soon followed by The Carfax Electric Theatre in 1911.
By 1923 the amazing Spanish-style Capitol Theatre had opened to be used as a theatre and a cinema on different days.
This was situated close to where Swan Walk is now.
The decades of the 1930s and 1940s saw tremendous growth in cinema-going.
Nationwide ticket sales grew to more than 30 million every week.
The magnificent Ritz Cinema in North Street opened its doors in 1936, showing off its splendid Art Deco Interior design.
Later that year the Odeon Cinema opened at the bottom of North Street. In 1982, the Ritz (by now the ABC ) was acquired by Horsham District Council to be converted into an Arts Centre, incorporating a theatre, cinema ,art exhibition area, studio, and bar.
Fortunately the magnificent Art Deco interiors were largely retained.
So here we are in the 21st century, witnessing the arrival of large multi-screen cinema complexes, and seeing the demise of the local cinema.
However in West Sussex and many other counties, film shows are popping up in Village Halls everywhere.
As we used to say many years ago, sitting in the stalls of our local cinema@ “I think this is where we came in!”
Much information for this article was provided by the book: “Cinema – West Sussex, the first hundred years “ compiled by Allen Ayles, Frank Gray and Alan Readman, and published by Phillimore & Co, Chichester, for West Sussex County Council in 1996 as part of “ Cinema 100”.
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