The Lost Cinemas of Chester-Le-Street.

I paid a quick trip to Chester-Le-Street in County Durham last weekend.

It’s an unusual hobby I know but whenever I visit a place I have never been before I try to find out how many cinemas any town I visit has and the age of them.

I was pleased to find out the Chester-Le-Street had five cinemas.


Unfortunately 80% of those cinema buildings are no longer there, 100% of them were no longer showing movies.

Of the five cinemas once in the town there is only the exterior of one remaining.

So let’s take a quick look at what was once there and what still is.

For such a small town it did surprise me that there was once five busy cinemas, some of which were operating at around the same time.

Pre television days of course the cinema was the one of the few ways of finding entertainment and it was seen as night out much like going to the Theatre. People would dress up and make a night out of it.

Cinema was also a great way for keeping up with the news of the day from the Pathé newsreels.

With there being several cinemas in such a small town as Chester-Le-Hope there must have been some competition between them. The distance between all these cinemas is so close that I would imagine that if there was no room in one people could easily just walk to the next one.

Let’s start with the cinemas that are no longer there.

Palace Cinema, Low Chare.

The Palace cinema opened on 22nd December 1919.

Closure came in 1960 when the building was flattened.

Since then it has been used as a car showroom and, now, a car park.

Palace Cinema
Site of the Palace cinema today.

Essoldo Cinema.

Originally built for the Chester-le-Street Theatre Co in 1911 and called the Empire, it was remodelled in 1928 to also contain a ballroom.

In 1946 the building was taken over by the Essoldo cinema company and renamed as the Essoldo.

The Essoldo cinema closed in 1971 but the ballroom continued to operate until a year later when the the Classic Chain took over the cinema.

Classic eventually shut down both the cinema and ballroom and, in 1972, the building was demolished.

The Essoldo Cinema
Site of the Essoldo today.

The Queens Hall Cinema.

On the 13th May 1931 the Queen’s Hall Cinema opened on S Burns Street. It was built on the site of a former brewery.

In 1958 the cinema was acquired by the Essoldo Chain. It must have been confusing having several cinemas called the Essoldo in such a small town.

The cinema was converted to a Bingo hall in 1967 which it stayed as until a fire in 1994 gutted the building.

It was then demolished shortly after.

I can’t find any photos of the cinema but I have found the below photo of the building as a Bingo hall.

Site of the Queens Hall Cinema today.

The Savoy Cinema.

The Savoy Cinema was located at 52 Front Street. Opened on the 14th March 1921 and showed movies for several years.

In 1946 the Essoldo Chain bought the cinema and The Savoy closed in 1960 when it was eventually demolished.

The Savoy Cinema. These people are not crowding outside to get in to see the films showing (which at the time were ‘The Unholy Three’ (starring Lon Chaney) and ‘The Richest Man in the World’(With Louis Mann and Robert Montgomery).

It was because of the annual Shrove Tuesday football event, an annual event in which the whole town played a game of football.

The site of the Savoy Cinema today.

Of the five cinemas that once stood in the town of Chester-Le-Street only one remained.

In order to locate it, I passed through an almost empty empty shopping centre, up around the back of the Wilkinsons and there it was.

I had found the one remaining cinema building in this small town in County Durham.

This was once the President 3 & 4.

Why 3 & 4? Well President 1 & 2 was located in nearby Houghton-le-Spring. I don’t know why they didn’t just call it the President 2, it would have been easier.

Or Essoldo to make it match all the other cinemas in town maybe?

Anyhoo, the President 3 & 4 opened on 12th October 1980 so, at the time, was the only cinema in Chester-Le-Street.

Trouble was the cinema was running at a loss for most of it’s lifetime and closed in 1984, just four years after opening, amid rumours of it being converted into a snooker hall.

It surprised everyone in the town when screen 3 reopened in April 1985 when admission was just 75p for children and £1.50 for adults (that’s probably about a fiver today allowing for inflation).

This lasted for about a year before the whole place closed down for a second and final time and screen 4 was converted into the Snooker club that everyone was expecting.

The rest of the building eventually became a car saleroom which it remains to this day.

Looking at the shape of the building it was easy to work out how it once looked. There were two screens here and were sat side by side. The above picture I would place as the screen end.

Chester-Le-Street is a beautiful town to visit and I would highly recommend it.

Unless you are looking for cinemas there.

There are none.


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