St. Columb's Hall & Orchard Cinema

Orchard Street and Newmarket Street,
Londonderry, BT48 6EG

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St. Columb's Hall (Official)

Additional Info

Architects: James Croom, Edward Toye

Firms: Croom & Toye Architects

Functions: Banquet Hall, Concerts, Live Music Venue

Styles: Italian Renaissance

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 440287.126.2880

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St. Columb's Hall & Orchard Cinema

St. Columb’s Hall in Derry was built by the St. Columb’s Hall Total Abstinence Society in 1886. It opened on 21st November 1888. Construction had taken two years, at a cost of £8,000. The main hall is located upstairs on the first floor, with its entrance on Newmarket Street. Seating was provided for 1,100 in stalls and a horseshow shaped balcony. That became the focus of community activities such as dances, meetings, lectures and band practices. It hosted the like of celebrated tenor John McCormack and the Halle Orchestra in the 1890’s. In response to rising maintenance costs associated with such a large hall, film shows were introduced into the programme of attractions from 1913, with Joseph Donaghy, of the London Motion Pictures Company, being contracted to supply the films. When talkies arrived in the late-1920’s, a Western Electric(WE) sound system was installed.

On the ground floor there was a Billiard Room, which opened in the very early days, which proved very popular, with players winning many competitions organised by the NW Billiard Association. However, the opening of the AOH (Ancient Order of Hibernians) Hall in Foyle Street in the 1950’s saw billiards at the St. Columb’s decline, and the Billiard Room closed in 1958.

In November 1937 the main hall hosted the Derry Drama Festival. This indicated the need for a small theatre, and the ground floor 132-seat Minor Room (accessed, like the Billiard Room, from Orchard Street) was made available to amateur theatre groups. The first production at the ‘Little Theatre’ was “The House of Jeffreys” in November 1947.

The main hall continued to present a variety of entertainments, including films, but by the early-1960’s it was going through a rather fallow period. Father Daly, who came to Derry as a curate in 1962, was charged by Bishop Farren to take over the administration of the hall. He revitalised it by bringing in headline acts such as Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, Chubby Checker, Milo O'Shea, The Dubliners, Joseph Locke, Ruby Murray, Frank Carson, Dana & Val Doonican. There was significant investment in new stage lighting and sound equipment, but this came at the expense of the film shows, which ceased on Saturday 5th May 1962. The final films were “Never Love a Stranger” starring John Drew Barrymore & “Cole Younger, Gunfighter” starring Frank Lovejoy. Mr P.J. Downer, secretary of the Hall committee, explained that the hall was struggling to obtain first-run films (both closing films were from 1958) and the introduction of Television was also having an adverse impact of attendances.

Bingo was also introduced, and proved to be very popular. Basement rooms (hitherto used for storage) were leased and converted into the Orchard Gallery, which opened in October 1978, and closed in the late-1990’s.

At some time (certainly before November 1998, when films were being advertised) the Minor Room/Little Theatre became home to the Orchard Cinema. That closed on 27th July 2007.

The main hall continues in use as a 700-seat live music/concert venue, and also as a banqueting hall

The St. Columb’s Hall building underwent a renovation in 2013 and in 2023 there could be plans to bring cinema use back to the building. The St. Columb’s Hall is a Grade A Listed Building.

Contributed by David Simpson

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

popcorn_pete on January 16, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Columbs was opened as a temperance hall in 1886 and was listed for film exhibition in the 1920s, although screenings have been somewhat on-and-off. Ian Dury & The Blockheads and Frank Carson are known to have appeared in the hall itself. The Magic Lantern Film Society set up by Alessandro Negrini started showing films in December 2007 starting with the Michael Moore documentary ‘Sicko’. The church sold off the building to the Garvan O'Doherty group in 2012 to overcome debts, and the main hall has become a banqueting centre and concert venue. There is nothing to suggest that films have been screened in the cinema since.

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