City Cinemas 1 & 2
65 Shopping City,
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Previously operated by: Cheshire County Cinemas
In Runcorn, Cheshire, Shopping City was built on a greenfield site near Halton Village.
This was to be the centrepiece of Runcorn New Town. Influenced by the fully enclosed, drive-in shopping malls that had begun to emerge in North America in the 1960’s, the Shopping City was to house other amenities such as a post office, library and pub. It was also close to the law courts, the police station and the hospital. The shopping complex was to be linked by pedestrian bridges and footpaths to some of the new, modern estates of the New Town.
Construction began in 1968 and was completed by 1971. Runcorn Shopping City was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 5th May 1972. At the time, it was the largest fully enclosed shopping centre in Europe.
The centre’s early success at attracting huge numbers of shoppers, brought in by Runcorn’s unique transportation system and its central location between Manchester and Liverpool, did not last as the owners at that time, Grosvenor, pushed rents up in an attempt to capitalise on its popularity. Spiralling rents soon saw many of the big names close and move to centres with lower rents.
The centre was bought by Fordgate Midland Properties Limited in January 1989. They undertook significant works to remove asbestos, replace and lower the original suspended ceiling, block up sky lights and replace damaged floor tiles and expansion joints, culminating with a rebranding in 1995 to Halton Lea Shopping Centre. In 1999, Fordgate used vacant land to the south of the centre, which had originally been intended for leisure and cultural use, to create an outdoor shopping park named Trident Retail Park.
This included a 9-screen Cineworld, which opened on 10th December 1999 (see separate Cinema Treasures entry).
In August 1973, just over a year after the Shopping Centre opened, City Cinemas 1 & 2 had opened. These were operated by R. H. Godfrey’s Cheshire County Cinemas, and provided a replacement for that circuit’s Empress Cinema in Runcorn, which had closed in June 1973 as it was in the way of a road widening scheme.
The entrance to City Cinemas was 30ft above ground level, but the two auditoriums were on a lower level. They seated 348 and 112 patrons. There was a licensed bar. The manager was a Mr Horton.
It is not known when City Cinemas closed, but presumably this was during the early-1980s, as the Centre itself suffered the downturn in its fortunes. (City Cinemas was listed in the Cinema Theatre Association’s 1980 Directory of Cinemas, but not in the BFI Film and Television Handbook 1984.)
Their site was undoubtedly lost to the 1990’s redevelopment.
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