Now a community and arts centre, Liverpool Lighthouse was the location of a cinema from 1912 until 1960 and now a £25,000 crowdfunder means movies will make a comeback. Tony McDonough reports
A former north Liverpool picture house that closed in 1960 is to be brought back to life as a community cinema after a successful £25,000 crowdfunding.
Liverpool Lighthouse, on the corner of Oakfield Road and St Domingo Vale, has been used as a gospel, music, arts and community centre since 1998, providing a focal point for thousands of local people.
It is home to recording studios, workshop rooms and a café where families, younger and older generations get together to take part in events and activities. The venue is also home to a 430-seat auditorium where theatre, dance and music shows take place.
Now it is to become community cinema once again. Thanks to a £25,000 crowfunder run through the Spacehive platform, new equipment can be bought to recreate an authentic cinema experience. It is hoped the attraction will be open later this year.
The site was formerly the location of King’s Hall and from 1912 to 1930 the building housed a 1,000-seat cinema. It was closed and demolished and, in its place, the Art Deco Gaumont Palace was built, owned and operated by the Gaumont British Theatres/General Theatre Corporation.
This opened in December 1932 showing Ronald Colman in The Devil to Pay and Wheeler & Woolsey in Oh! Oh! Cleopatra. It had a capacity of 1,500 people, with 1,100 in the stalls and 500 in the circle.
In 1937 it was renamed the Gaumont and survived as a cinema until November 1960. One of the last films to be shown was The Unforgiven starring Burt Lancaster. Following the closure of the picture house the building became an Appleton’s store and then a DIY outlet.
Charlie Brown was the manager of The Gaumont when it opened in 1931. His grandson, Andy Brown, says his grandfather would have been delighted to see the building used a community cinema once again.
He added: “You are doing what Charlie Brown did back then. The cinema was more than the experience of seeing films. It was supporting the community and bringing entertainment to the people of Anfield. He would have been very proud to know that his legacy is still living on.”
Support from the community for the project has been “overwhelming”. Rebecca Ross-Williams, the new creative director of Liverpool Lighthouse adde: “We are so fortunate that our venue can once again bring the joy of film to our local communities through a community cinema at Liverpool Lighthouse.
“It provides an opportunity for local people of all ages and backgrounds to come together in shared experiences which aim to promote happiness – which let’s face it’s much needed. Just to think 90 years later the doors are opening for cinema again.”
The restoration of Liverpool Lighthouse involves installing a 10-metre Cine Pro electrical screen. It will be given a vintage feel by adding to the Art Deco features that have remained preserved.
This includes using the original box office and installing popcorn makers, candy floss trollies and lighting up the venue outside with a retro ‘now showing’ sign. Screenings will include much loved classics to independent productions, at affordable admission prices.