The Forum Cinema - Herries Road, Sheffield (1938 - 1969)

I have passed this row of shops on many, many occasions on my way to work but it was only in the last year that I found out that the Tesco's store on Herries Road was once the site of a cinema that was in its heyday "the largest cinema on any housing estate in Sheffield". It does look from the photograph taken in 1954 a marvelous building that very much compliments the adjacent row of shops.

Forum Cinema (later Essoldo) & Nos. 413, G. Francis, hairdresser, 415, The Ring Fruit Co. Ltd. & 417, H.C. Bennett, butcher, Herries Road, Southey Green. Photo taken 1954

Opened Saturday 17th September 1938 by the Right Hon. A.V. Alexander MP - Special Screening of One Night of Love starring Grace Moore

 Closed 31st May 1969 - Last Film - Bullit starring Steve McQueen and One Silver Dollar

Architect: George Coles

Capacity: 1814

Proprietors: Forum Cinema (Sheffield) Ltd. The Chairman and main shareholder was Michael Gleeson, but Essoldo acquired a major interest in the company around October 1946, although the cinema was not licensed to an Essoldo nominee until January 1948; and not renamed the Essoldo, Southey Green until 6th June 1956. By the time the cinema closed the property appears to have been transferred to Twentieth Century Cinemas Ltd, a company closely associated with Essoldo.

The Forum was built exactly the same as The Capitol at Lane Top but it opened one year and one day before The Capitol. According to Richard Ward in his excellent book "In Memory of Sheffield's Cinema's" Gleesons used large quantities of steel in the construction - the main balcony girder weighed 30tons. The building was faced with red brick whilst white faience was used on both the  facade and the fin tower, the latter also had green neon lighting that was visible over a wide area at night. The vestibule was the largest cinema entrance hall in Sheffield and was decorated in fuscia, green, and fawn. The floor was mainly terrazzo   

Both cinemas, together with Ecclesfield Cinema House, came within the influence of Essoldo around October 1946, but their names not changed to Essoldo until much later. A correspondent to a local history message board in March 2007 gives a very interesting explanation of how the term "Essoldo" came about.

The Forum - circa 1950

"The name ESSOLDO has always been a mystery for some people. Where did it come from? Well, it's quite simple really, but a very clever manoeuvre. The man who originally started the firm, and still held the reins until his death in the mid sixties, was named SOLoman Sheckman. His wife's name was ESther, and his daughter's was DOrothy. Bring them into line and you have ESther - SOLoman - DOrothy. That is the honest truth, so help me"

NOTES

The cinema was the largest cinema on any housing estate in Sheffield with a capacity exceeded only by the Regent, the Hippodrome, and some twenty years later the Odeon Cinema in Flat Street, Sheffield. As well as being a cinema the building also had a atage. The first manager was Lawrence Cellini, a colourful character who introduced novel ideas, some of which were copied at Gleeson's later cinema, the Capitol. In the spring of 1941 Cellini's gimmick was 'Friday night is carrot nite', patrons being expected to make a charitable donation of a penny or more for a carrot, a few of which contained a surprise dividend.

From October 1942 to May 1943 the Forum was promoted as a cinema that offered film, variety and music. An Everett Orgatron had recently been installed and was played by a number of visiting organists; between one and three turns were presented, sometimes with a double feature. There were a few Sunday charity concerts but they hardly matched those held at the Capitol or Regent. An idiosyncrasy of the manager was to include jokes in his press advertisements, which were un- related to the films but doubtless caught the reader's eye. In 1947 Cellini 'retired' and went into the cinema business on his own account.

The first Sunday cinema opening at both the Forum and Capitol was on the 8th February 1948. The Forum did not follow the example of the Essoldo, Lane Top (formerly the Capitol) in showing films in 3-D and was not equipped for Cinemascope until much later; however, both halls were able to show Cinemascope with the enhancement of stereophonic sound. In December 1961 bingo was introduced on a Thursday evening but soon it was back to films. From November 1967 the cinema closed on a Wednesday; it was not a good sign. The cinema was closed in 1969 and was used briefly as a bingo hall before being demolished. The site was redeveloped as a supermarket

Notes

1. On the BBC web-site - The Peoples War - there is an article submitted by a Marion Graham which vividly portrays the Forum Ciema on possibly the most fateful night in Sheffield's history

"...On the night of the Sheffield Blitz, my Mum, my Dad and I were in the Forum cinema, which stood where the Tesco store is now on Herries Road. The film was interrupted by the manager (Lawrence Cellini?) to say that the air-raid siren had sounded, but that the film would be carrying on! Most people just stayed but at the end of the film they said everyone had to leave the building, and by that time the raid was in full swing. I remember the noise of the planes and the bombs dropping. The bangs sounded quite near but they turned out to be in the Attercliffe area where the factories were and in the town centre.

We made our way towards home but when we came to the public air-raid shelter at the junction of Herries Road and Longley Avenue, my Dad said that we should go in there and not try to go any further.

We stayed in the shelter with lots of other people all night, and when we went home in the morning, after the "All-Clear" had sounded, we found our front door blown in and lying on the stairs, and a few panes of glass broken in the front windows. Afterwards we realised how lucky we had been compared to some.....".

 

Sources

In Memory of Sheffield's Cinema's - Richard Ward (SCL 1988)

Clifford Shaw in "Images of England - Sheffield Cinemas"

The Sheffield Cinema Society "The ABC of Sheffield Cinemas"

Wartime Schooldays - Marion Graham - submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Marion Graham

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This page was last updated on 04/12/08 12:46