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Cinema Fires

Fires in Cinemas were not uncommon, the film used was liable to burst into flames if not handled very carefully, and smoking was allowed in cinemas resulting in smouldering cigarette ends left on seats causing fires.


Valuable Music Lost in A DISASTROUS FIRE which broke out in the early hours of yesterday morning almost entirely burned out the Theatre de Luxe Cinema in Northgate Street. Gloucester.
The fire, one of the biggest which have taken place in the city for many years, caused damage amounting to tens of thousands of pounds.
Shortly after midnight, police patrolling the city detected the smell of smoke, and a report was made to Police Sergeant Ryland, who with other constables made close search to find the cause.
Owing to the high wind the smoke could not be detected anywhere near the theatre, and it was not until three o'clock that Mr W. Peart, a member of The Gloucester City A.F.C. who was on his way to work, saw smoke coming from the theatre. He informed the police, and the Fire Brigade were quickly on scene with three fire engines and 21 men under Supt. F. Windebank.
When the firemen broke their way into the theatre, they could see nothing in the smoke-filled building, and they donned gas masks in an effort to locate the seat of the fire.
Almost immediately flames roared through the roof, which fell with a crash, sending up a vast column of flames and sparks.

The firemen fought strenuously, pouring water from 12 jets on to the building, and at one time there was great danger to surrounding shops. People living over the shops were aroused, but it did not become necessary to evacuate them, except W. Collins, who lives with his family in Worcester Street. He was suffering from seizure, and was taken for safety by ambulance to the Royal Infirmary.
None of the people living near knew of the fire until aroused the police. Goods salvaged from shops were piled in the street.
The theatre, a comparatively modern building, had seating accommodation for 1,100. Mr Wyndham Lewis, who is the manager and organist and is frequently heard over the air, said that the organ, which is a mass of charred debris, cost £4.500. He has lost all his music. 6.000 copies, worth £200 which he has been collecting for years.
The brigade had the fire in hand in about two hours, and did remarkably fine work in preventing its spread to abutting property. The new fire-fighting telescopic ladder machine played a great part in the work, enabling firemen to direct water on to the fire from above the roof.
The front part of the building was saved, including the cafe- manager's office, stores and operating theatre box.

Western Daily Press - Tuesday 31 January 1939
Image © Trinity Mirror

Fireman working on the Gutted interior of the Theatre de Luxe cinema
Picture:- Gloucestershire Echo - Monday 30 January 1939
Image © Trinity Mirror.

Organ Plays to Audience While It is Quelled.
There was alarm of fire the Rivoli Cinema. Southend-on-Sea, last evening, when a film burst Into flames in the projection room.
The brigade were summoned and two engines attended. The fire was soon under control by the brigade's flrst-aid apparatus.
The manager of the cinema told the audience that there was no need for panic and programme was resumed after a break of about a quarter-of-an hour, during which time the organ played selections.
No one left the cinema in which there were 1300 people present.
Nottingham Journal
Thursday 05 November 1936

Ronald Tootle (24) bobbin carrier, of Thompson Avenue, Ormskirk, was sent to prison for three years at Wigan to-day, after pleading guilty to setting fire to the County Playhouse Cinema, Wigan, and to setting fire twice to the Ritz Cinema. Wigan.
Damage to the extent of £12,000 was done to the County Playhouse and minor damage was caused at the Ritz.
After medical evidence of Tootle's mental state, the Recorder said that he must have medical attention, and the only safe way to ensure this was by sentencing him.

The Stage
22 July 1949
Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Hundreds of homeward bound theatre-goers crowded the Town hall steps at Sheffield last night watching firemen coping with a blaze involving the Albert Hall, a leading picture house in the city, containing an Organ which cast more than £5,000.
The outbreak was discovered about 11 o'clock, and shortly before midnight flames, leaping through the roof, were visible for miles. A fire brigade official told a reporter that the outbreak was one of the biggest known in the town.
A woman eye witness said. "The whole of the roof appeared to be is flaming mass. Shortly before midnight, the firemen, several of whom were slightly injured by falling slates, but not sufficiently to warrant hospital treatment, concentrated on the back of the theatre, where it was feared that the flames might endanger adjoining buildings."
A tower about 40 feet high above the theatre was in danger of falling, and it was feared that If it collapsed it might set fire to other property, which included a picture house, a large garage, cutlery works, and other manufacturing establishments.

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Nottingham Evening Post
15 July 1937
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