The Apollo Cinema, Park Street, Worcester

  • 16 Jan 2012
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The Apollo Cinema was converted from the Zion Chapel, which had been rebuilt in 1845 with an imposing frontage. It seated 167, but in 1910, the church closed, and the building became a cinema. Despite its fine facade it was a small building with a tiny gallery, and to get a reasonable 'throw', the projection box had to be constructed out through a window over the street. Entrance to matinees was 2d., for children 1d., or two glass jam jars. In later years some doubted the story of the jam jars, but in c.1974, Sidbury F. Evans wrote the following to the Worcester Evening News:

'My grandfather converted the chapel into the Apollo Cinema, and ran it for many years as a family affair. My mother was in the paybox, my father was the cinema operator (by hand), and my two older brothers took the tickets and sold chocolates and cigarettes during the interval, when it was twice nightly. I was too young to do much, but my job was to take the films into a back room after they had been shown and wind them back by hand ready for the second house.

'I lived
underneath the Apollo for a number of years and I remember the stacks of jam jars in the yard waiting for enogh to get a rag man to collect them. I believe my father would only take the jars at matinees from children who were too poor to afford the one old penny admission.

'After the last show on Saturday night my Dad had to pack the films in boxes and take them to Shrub Hill for transport to another cinema ready for the next Monday show and other cinema's would do the same for us (all of coarse, done through an agent). My grandfather also ran film shows at the old Public Hall in the Cornmarket and older citizens may still remember the operating box which you could see from outside the building.

The Saturday matinees attracted children to see the 'Blood and Thunder' serials like The Clutching Hand, and The Faces at the Window. These serial films were a feature of the early cinema. They were the themes of Victorian melodrama on the new medium of film, with heroines like Pearl White, tied to the railway lines with the train approaching at break-neck speed. Just at the moment of crisis it would end with the caption 'to be continued next week', bring shouts and groans of frustration. There were many breaks in the film in those days bringing rude comments from the audience which drowned the 'cover-up' of the pianist. For an extra penny, one could go into the gallery, which was a popular vantage point for young marksmen who would shoot peas at the lady pianist, or hold their hands up and make shadows on the screen, raising fury from those below. There followed the inevitable 'chuckingout', and usually it was the wrong person that was thrown out.