THE current closure of cinemas, due to lockdown, has prompted regular contributor Vincent Finn to recall a time when they weren’t open on Sundays:

“Cinemas played a large part in people’s lives. They were so popular that all the city’s cinemas were listed on the front page of the old Telegraph. The pattern of screenings was the same; one set of films on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday then it changed for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There was a ‘little picture’ followed by newsreels, trailers, then the ‘Big Picture’. It was over by 11pm and at the end everyone stood while the National Anthem played.

I remember the campaign to open cinemas on Sundays, and the opposition that was mounted. All cinemas posted big notices on advertising boards: ‘Vote for Sunday Cinemas ‘ was the slogan. I used to walk past the Roxy in Barkerend Road, they had two billboards, one each side of the entrance, and instead of weekly films advertised the Sunday Cinema slogan filled the board.

The ‘For’ and ‘Against’ groups waged strong campaigns. Tuesday March 25, 1947 was the day of the vote. The ‘For’ camp was led by GW Ridler, chairman of the Bradford Sunday Cinemas Association which had its headquarters in the old Odeon. The Bradford Citizens Sunday Defense Council, leading the opposition; was based at Eastbrook Hall and led by Rev Arthur Bailey . Polling day was busy. Both sides gave out handbills and drove vans with loudspeakers around the city. People were urged to vote on their lunch-break. Voting was from 12noon to 8pm in 168 polling stations in 115 schools. It was reported that 52,868 turned out to vote. The majority, 31,268, voted for Sunday cinemas. I wonder how many T&A readers remember that referendum.

Going to the flicks was the highlight of the week, especially for courting couples. If you met somebody at a Saturday dance, the only follow-up for a date was a mid-week night at the pictures. Seats had various prices depending on location; cheap seats at the front. You could enter any time during the film, when it reached the point where you came in you could leave.

On Friday and Saturdays nights long queues would form at the Odeon, Ritz and New Victoria, the doorman would walk up and down calling out any vacant seats: “I have two at 1/6d but not together”. The New Victoria and Ritz had an organ below floor level and in the intermission it would rise and the organist played tunes with the words and a bouncing ball displayed on the screen.

It was common practice for kids who wanted to get in to an A-rated film to ask an adult to take them in. At 9pm the doorman would walk through and order young kids out. You hid under the seat to avoid getting kicked out. Some parishes had their own cinema and the priest checked each films’ suitability. St Mary’s had the Scala, St Peter’s had the Tivoli, and St Patrick’s and St Ann’s had a parish-owned cinema.

“In the late 1940s/early 50s there was often a power cut or, as they came to be called, a brown-out. You’d have to leave the cinema since the chance of the power coming back on was slim to none, and you didn’t get your money back.”