From reading the Chief’s log I was not in the understanding of what ‘Rank’ was. So I looked up on Wikipedia that ‘Rank Organisation’ was a big British cinema company:
The company grew quickly, largely through acquisition. Significant developments included:
- 1938 – Odeon Cinemas was purchased
- 1939 – Denham Film Studios were merged with the facilities at Pinewood and the Amalgamated Studios in Borehamwood were acquired, but not used for making films.
- 1941 – Purchase of the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation, which also owned Gainsborough Pictures, 251 cinemas and the Lime Grove Studios.
- 1942 – UK sites of Paramount Cinemas purchased
- Late 1940s – A majority shareholding in Allied Cinemas and Irish Cinemas Ltd was gained, becoming the largest exhibition circuit in Ireland (a position maintained until the early 1980s)
By the late 1940s J Arthur Rank (or the Rank Organisation as it was now called), owned:
- Five major film studio complexes, Pinewood Film Studios, Denham Film Studios, Ealing Studios, Lime Grove Studios and Islington Studios. (The studios at Lime Grove were sold to the BBC in 1949.)
- 650 UK cinemas (Odeon, Gaumont and Paramount chains) plus various international holdings, including subsidiaries in Canada and The Netherlands
I found a piece of information about the Odeon theatre on Jordon Well to see whether what it said matched the raw material I had found and it does:
The Gaumont Palace opened on 5th October 1931 with George Arliss in “The Millionaire” and Constance Carpenter in “Brown Sugar”. This vast cinema had an entrance on Jordon Well, and a separate entrance to the front stalls on Whitefriars Street. The building incorporated the former Coliseum Ballroom & Cafe, which was converted into the Gaumont Palace Ballroom. There were also two cafe’s in the building, one for the cinema, and the other for the ballroom.
Seating was provided in stalls and circle levels. There was a huge 85 feet diameter dome in the centre of the ceiling which contained the projection box port-holes. The 52 feet wide proscenium had a gentle curve, and contained three troughs of concealed lighting. The Gaumont Palace was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/9Ranks organ which was opened by organist Leslie James.
It was re-named Gaumont on 19th January 1937. Closed on 14th November 1940 due to damage from German bombs, it was repaired and re-opened. It was fully restored and redecorated in 1949, to the plans of architect Harry Weedon.
In 1960, the Rank Organisation modernised the cinema, and a new projection box was built at the rear of the circle. It was modernised again in 1967, re-opening on 31st July 1967 as the 3-screen Odeon. There were 716 seats in Screen 1 (former circle) and 170 & 176 seats in Screen’s 2 & 3 in the former rear stalls.
Screen’s 4 & 5 opened in February 1990 using the former front stalls with 390 seats, and a former cafe area with 121 seats. The Odeon was closed in October 1999, after the new 9-screen Odeon multiplex opened in the Sky Dome Leisure Centre.
The Gaumont/Odeon was sold to Coventry University to be used as a Performing Arts Centre and it opened in December 2000 as the Ellen Terry Arts & Media Building (named after the famed Edwardian era actress)
Contributed by Ken Roe
I then went on a forum website and found a story from the 1960s:
I was a regular at the Gaumont ‘Tanner Rush’ in the 60s and recall those cliffhanger serials. Some were Westerns, such as Cody of the Pony Express, others were space stories featuring invaders from Venus who carried ray guns that looked remarkably like hair dryers. I went to the Gaumont for several years, although I did go in the circle for 9d rather than the stalls for a tanner. I met friends there every week that I never saw any other time. It started at 9.30ish, so my breakfast was always a hot dog in the interval, which was at the end of the cliffhanger. The formula was the same every week, shorts and cartoons, then the serial. After the interval the feature would last until about 12.30. They had older kids as stewards, some of whom could be quite nasty with the little kids. I did always think that the Gaumont was the better option, as we were told all the ‘rough kids’ went to the Empire. I can remember the usual horseplay at the Gaumont, but not really any trouble. There were certainly no sing-alongs when I went either. Happy days, though, I must have been a regular there for 3-4 years.
So from gathering an eclectic mix I have a chief projectionists’ log book, backed up with historical information, and a personal story. I feel that I could make a narrative from this; however, the visuals are very limiting: there is a huge abundance of what it looks like now as the Coventry University Ellen Terry building with students outside. I think that I would like to look at some of the other cinemas in Coventry as well. I have started looking at the Ritz in Longford and would like to include visuals from there.