Hampton Cinema

Southampton, SO45

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Previous Names: Hythe Cinema

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This has proved to be a very elusive cinema! So far as I can determine, the Hythe (later Hampton) was either directly part of, or very close to, the shipyard at Hythe, Southampton.

In a press cutting dated 8th November 1963, held in the Cinema Theatre Association Archive, Miss Edith Green, a local resident, remembered serving in the cinema building when it was a canteen “attached to the local shipyard”. This was in operation at least during World War I, as she recalled that soldiers, convalescing at Netley Hospital, would pop down to the canteen.

By contrast, a reminiscence on the website hythe-newforest.org recalls that the cinema building was a converted hangar. It was situated just along from Grove Cottages, which were subsequently demolished to make way for hovercraft works.

It is not known when the cinema opened, but Miss Green also recalled playing the piano to accompany silent films. It is not listed in the 1923 or 1928 Kinematograph Year Books, but I do not have access to any others from the 1920’s. Nor do I have access to the 1930 edition, but the cinema does appear in the 1931 edition. However, further to Miss Green’s recollections, the cinema was certainly operating during the silent era. (The press cutting reports that, by 1963, it had been operating for “some 40 years”: perhaps something of an exaggeration.)

It was opened by Wallace Maton. The cutting also says that the building had been used “for a time” as a dance hall and roller skating rink. However, the 1931 KYB lists a dance hall attached, so perhaps that was always a separate building (the cinema’s relatively small seating capacity certainly suggests so) and perhaps the building had been used for roller skating way back, before it even became a canteen.

The 1931 KYB also notes that the cinema had a café. The films were booked by S. Gough, Lake Road, Portsmouth. The next edition I have access to is 1934, by which time the dance hall and café are no longer mentioned. A Mihaly sound system is, however, listed.

In 1937, the seating capacity was listed as 287. By 1945 this had risen slightly, to 297, though it went back to 290 in 1946 (perhaps a touch of ‘rounding up’). A. H. Sowerbutts, Heath House, Hythe, was by then the proprietor.

The 1947 edition sees the name change to the Hampton Cinema - now with 285 seats! Shows were once nightly, with Saturday and Sunday continuous from 5.15pm. Later on there were three changes of programme each week.

The Hampton Cinema is listed in the KYB for 1962, but is not in the 1963 edition. This ties in with the cutting, which says that the building had been acquired by a local company and is going into industrial use.

On a happier note, just before the Hampton closed, Miss Green, who was clearly a little more than ‘merely’ the pianist, had “another spell” as an usherette.

I am assuming the building has been demolished by now, but I would welcome any updates/corrections from other contributors.

Contributed by David Simpson
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