Playhouse Portrush

47 Main Street,
Portrush, BT56 6FF

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Curran Theatres, Movie House Cinemas, Rank Organisation

Functions: Movies (Classic)

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: Majestic Cinema, Playhouse Cinema, Portrush Film Theatre

Phone Numbers:
Manager: 440287.082.3917

Nearby Theaters

Playhouse Portrush

The Majestic Cinema opened on 7th April 1939(Good Friday) with Leslie Howard in “Pygmalion”. It had seating for 792 in stalls and circle levels and the proscenium was 40 feet wide. Initially operated by an independent operator, it was later taken over by the Curran Theatres chain.

Taken over by the Rank Organisation in 1956, they closed it in 1974. The building lay unused for several years, then in 1977, it was re-opened as the Playhouse Cinema by an independent operator. The seating capacity was reduced to 360, using the former circle only, with the former stalls in use as an amusement arcade and bingo club. It had closed again by 1980.

The Playhouse Cinema re-opened in 1993, and in the Summer of 1997 a second 50-seat screen was created in the former rear stalls area, the former circle screen now seated 315.

It was closed in 2006, but was re-opened by the Movie House Cinemas chain at Easter 2007. However, by May 2008 it appears to have closed again. In early-December 2008, plans were proposed to revamp the building into a combined bar, cinema and theatre.

In 2009 the building reopened with a Sucker Fish Bar in the downstairs area and a nightclub in the former stalls. Films were tried again, but without success, and all these ventures closed down. Then, in early-2014, New Zealander Kris Charteris moved in, and created Kiwi’s Brew Bar downstairs, with an additional bar in the former stalls, and with the intention of using the cinema screen in the former circle to show sporting events and for special occasions.

The surreal fantasy drama “Donnie Darko” starring Jake Gyllenhaal was screened in November 2014, and interest was shown in setting up a film society to present regular screenings. A public meeting was held, at which interested parties were asked to pledge £10 per head as seed money. This was successful, and the Portrush Film Theatre was launched in early-2015 with a screening of “Pride”, starring Bill Nighy & Imelda Staunton.

When I visited on Saturday 3rd August 2019, the Film Theatre presented two films to celebrate the original cinemas 80th birthday. Family adventure “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” starring Kirk Douglas & James Mason was the early-afternoon offering, while I enjoyed Doris Day & Howard Keel in “Calamity Jane” in the late-afternoon. I also very much enjoyed meeting bar owner Kris and members of the Film Theatre committee, especially Ned. It is wonderful that this historic cinema has re-opened, and I wish them all the very best.

By summer of 2023 it had been renamed The Playhouse Portrush operating as a full-time cinema and showing classic films weekly.

Contributed by Ken Roe, David Simpson

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

fmd73 on May 10, 2008 at 10:11 pm

i hope movie house have'nt taken over the playhouse.sadly it will be ‘modernised’ just like the rest of it’s fleet of souless cinema’s.this chain has no real interest in cinema,just raking the cash in sadly.

fmd73 on May 10, 2008 at 10:28 pm

the playhouse in the 70s

Torchlight on April 27, 2024 at 4:43 pm

When the Majestic Cinema opened in 1939 the owner was Portrush Majestic Cinema Ltd. The directors were William L. James, Mrs. Bridget L. James and James Curran (head of Curran Theatres). Mr. J. McLeod was the secretary and manager while the architect was James Sheriff Kennedy of Coleraine and Portstewart. By 1946 James Curran has taken a controlling interest in the Majestic and by the end of 1948 it had been taken over by Curran Theatres (who had grown to become one of the largest cinema chains in Northern Ireland). In 1956 the Majestic was included in the sale of the Curran chain to Rank.

Rank closed the Majestic in 1970, according to the Overview on Cinema Treasures. This is slightly at odds with the article on which says it closed in 1974. The Belfast Telegraph (5th July 1977) reported that James Moran had turned the former Majestic Cinema, which he had bought 3 years earlier, into a complex. Spread over 4-stories, it included not only the cinema but a bingo hall, leisure complex and restaurant. Moran also changed its name to the Playhouse and appointed a new manager, Ken Gibbons. Despite of all these changes, by 1980 (or 1982?) the Playhouse had closed.

In 1987 the Playhouse was leased to George Rowan and Michael McAdam (his first cinema venture) but their length of stay seems only to have lasted until 1990 (Sunday Life, 15th April 2007). In 1990 Michael McAdam opened the first of his Movie House Cinemas chain (at Glengormley – see separate Cinema Treasures entry).

According to the Overview, the Playhouse reopened in 1993 and in the summer of 1997 a second screen was added. These developments were a result of Ken Gibbons, the Playhouse’s former manager (in the later 1970s) having taken it over. Ken Gibbons ran it until his death in 2004 after which his son Alan took over until it closed in 2006. In 2007 Michael McAdam returned to the Playhouse again, when he opened it for Easter, before taking a 10-week lease for the summer season.

Torchlight on April 27, 2024 at 4:52 pm

When the Majestic opened in 1939 there was an agency office for the Ulster Bank on one side of the entrance and a café on the other side. The café was run by Mr. A. Forte, who also had concessions inside the cinema for ice cream, confectionery and cigarettes. The first film shown was ‘Pygmalion’ starring Leslie Howard. Shows were continuous from 2.30 with prices starting at 6d.

One former cinemagoer recalls a Mr. McKeown (he had a Scottish accent), who managed the Majestic during the Sixties. This commentator, while working in the town in 1966, remembers the Majestic’s manager but not his name or accent. This gentleman also managed Rank’s Avenue cinema in Belfast and had been seconded to the Majestic for the summer season.

An oddity was found in the Kine Year Books (1939 and 1940). There was no sign as yet of the Majestic (opened 1939) but there was a new entry for the Ritz, Portrush - proprietor W. James (no other details). The 1941 edition was not seen but in the 1942 edition an entry for the Majestic was in place; there was no sign of the Ritz. Could it be that W. James was in fact William James, a director of Portrush Majestic Cinema Ltd (see previous comment) and the Ritz was the intended name for the cinema which became the Majestic?

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