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The Albert Hall, as a cinema, opened in August 1922.
The auditorium was slightly remodeled by architect Charles Tamlin Ruthin to accommodate the rising popularity of the motion picture. Records show it had screened motion pictures as early as 1914 with a presentation of C.W Pool’s ‘Myriorama’.
In 1929 a fortune was spent to fit the Albert out with a sound system so that Swansea could go to ‘the talkies’! The projection box was very unusiual at the Albert Hall. Unlike most cinemas that had the projection box at the rear of the circle, the Albert's was suspended under the front of the circle. Although this was often seen in cinemas in the USA, it is beleived that only around 10 or so cinemas in the UK had this unusual feature. Positioned where it was it was considered by the projectionists who worked there to have the perfect screening angle. In the bingo days it was covered by a bingo numbers board and the room itself made into a straff room. The box can be seen in a number of photos across this website!
In 1935, with the addition of a new art deco foyer area and a modern canopy that wrapped around the front of the building but, sadly, the removal of its front arches, it became Swansea’s largest and grandest luxury cinema.
Now, with a capacity of almost 2200, it would entertained Swansea for the next 50 years as it screened everything from the earliest Hollywood greats to big screen blockbusters like Steve McQueen in ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘Zulu’ starring local actor Stanley Baker.
Peter Sellers made a film in Swansea called ‘Only Two Can Play’ and the movie premiered at the Albert Hall the night before it opened in London!
Frenzied teenagers screamed at the silver screen for the many Cliff Richard movies!
Police were called to control the crowds of thousands trying to get to see the ‘Planet Of The Apes’ movies.
The Steven Speilberg blockbuster, ‘Jaws‘, opened on Boxing Day 1975 and played to full house’s 3 times a day for 8 months!
Other blockbusters included ‘The Towering Inferno‘ which played for 4 months, ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Exorcist’ all enjoyed equally long runs. ‘The Exorcist’ made headlines in 1973 when it was required that St Johns ambulance to be in attendance to cope with the people of Swansea fainting in the audience!
The final years as a cinema saw the always popular ‘double feature’ programs return.
All the major Disney movies of the 1950s and 1960s Disney movies played at the Albert, many of them Welsh premieres.
Almost annual seasons of ‘The Sound Of Music’, graced the huge screen, always playing to full houses. It is thought that the movie played 11 return seasons between 1968 and 1976 possibly making ‘The Sound Of Music’ Swansea’s favorite musical of all time!
When ‘The Exorcist’ returned a few years later, in a double bill with 'Sysperia', it was to be the last movie ever to play at the Albert Hall on the evening of the Dec 3rd 1977.
From August 1922 the Albert Hall Cinema was operated as a full time cinema by South Wales Cinemas Ltd.
It was leased to Union Cinema from March 1937 and fully taken over by them in October 1937 and managed by Associated British Cinemas, ABC.
From 1st October 1939 it was taken back by South Wales Cinemas Ltd. The Cardiff based firm of Jackson Withers took control from 1955 and they operated it until 1st November 1976 when they were taken over by the Rank Organisation.