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Cinemas of Exeter - some histories

Page updated 6th January 2014

ABC/Savoy Updated
Barnfield Theatre
City of Exeter Palace/The Lounge Updated
The Cosy - Topsham
Empire Electric Theatre Updated
Franklin Picture Palace Updated
Gaumont Updated
Hippodrome or Plaza Updated
Kings Hall
Northcott Theatre
Odeon Updated
Palladium Updated
Picture House
Rex/Tivoli - Topsham
Theatre Royal
Victoria Hall Picture Palace
Vue Cinema

Exeter Cinema logoAn Introduction

Magic lantern shows were a popular entertainment in Victorian times. Two or more projectors were often used, and along with special slides, apparent movement was created, all to tell a story. However, the showman could not create real movement on the screen. In England, a show in February 1896 by the French Lumier Brothers changed all that, when they demonstrated moving pictures for the first time.

By July of the same year, travelling picture shows, mostly using R W Paul's rival Theatrograph system, were appearing in many parts of Britain. It was this system that was used for Exeter's first cinema show in October the same year, at the Victoria Hall.

The Cinema Act of 1909 came into force on 1 January 1910 - this meant that the existing venues had to be modified to improve the safety of the premises with regards to fire, which was a constant threat because of the highly flammable film stock. Projectors had to be housed separately from the audience in a fire proof casing and new venues were opened that were specifically designed to accommodate the Act. The City Council also used the Act to prohibit the showing of films on a Sunday. The Hippodrome was the first to apply for a license, followed by the Barnfield Hall with their “Kinematography and Colour Photography” and the Victoria Hall as the “Victoria Hall Picture Palace”.

In 1940, the City Council debated whether to allow Sunday cinema. After several meetings and much comment in the Express and Echo from the Bishop of Exeter, among others, Sunday cinema was approved with the Mayor's casting vote. The first Sunday presentation was given on 23rd February 1941.

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