125 Station Road,
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In Ashington, Northumberland, by early-1990, picturegoers had been without big screen entertainment since the Wallaw Cinema (see separate Cinema Treasures entry) closed in July 1982.
A public meeting was held, and film buff Paul Maddison was inspired to try to fulfil his lifelong ambition of running his own cinema. He sought advice and assistance from Mike Hamp, at the Wansbeck Business Centre, which helped co-operatives and community business ventures start up. Together they drew up a business plan for a cinema co-operative, and were able to secure financial support from various local organisations, plus £1,000 from Northern Arts.
Premises were found in the former Co-op Hall, which had been empty for 15 years, at Store Corner, at the top of Station Road. Work began in early summer 1990 to refit the first floor hall as a comfortable cinema with up to date projection equipment and sound system. Much of the work was done by eight young lads from the Ashington Resource Centre, overseen by their supervisors, which helped them develop their skills. (By way of saying thanks, the lads received ‘Gold Tickets’, allowing them free admission for the first six months.)
The Picture House opened on Saturday 24th November 1990 with “Ghost”, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. There were three shows each day. Despite many sell-out shows in the early days, by November 1991 a warning was sent out saying that it was in danger of closing unless it got more support.
On Saturday 11th March 1995 a free screening of Disney’s “The Lion King” was organised as a way of encouraging townsfolk to come and see the cinema for themselves: a recent survey had found that many folk did not even know the Picture House existed, and that some of those who did thought it was a bit of a ‘flea pit’. Disney provided the film free of charge, and the kids received free T-shirts and sweets.
It is not known how successful this initiative was, but it appears that a reasonable level of support just wasn’t there, and it is believed that the Picture House closed in 1998.
The buildings in which the Co-op Hall was housed are now home to The Repro Centre and Dining Direct stores.
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