Raspberry mivvis and a Pearl and Dean advert in the break

The Savoy picture house in March 1959.
The Savoy picture house in March 1959.
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A fire may have destroyed an old Sunderland picture house but the memories definitely live on.

They were the days of raspberry mivvis in the break, Pearl and Dean adverts, and two showings a day.

The Savoy shortly after opening.

The Savoy shortly after opening.

Sadly, the movie days of the old Savoy cinema are long gone.

But Philip Curtis, of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, reminded us of a golden age for cinema in Sunderland.

The fire which recently destroyed the old Savoy cinema on Southwick Green finally brought to an end Southwick’s last link with ‘going to the pictures’.

Until its closure as a cinema in 1959 the Savoy was for many years the local picture hall for generations of Suddickers.

Each performance would usually include the ‘big’ picture and a ‘B’ film. In between was the Pathe News and forthcoming attractions as well as the adverts produced by Pearl and Dean

Philip Curtis

And for decades it was the place to take wives, families and girlfriends for a night out - watching in awe as the stars of the big screen appeared in film before them.

That was the time when picture halls had first house and second house performances.

And each performance would usually include the ‘big’ picture and a ‘B’ film.

In between was the Pathe News and forthcoming attractions as well as the adverts produced by Pearl and Dean.

It was usually then when you could buy a raspberry mivvi or a kia-ora down the aisle from the girl who stood at the front of the house with the tray.

There was no booking of seats and you could just go in at any time.

As often as not, people would arrive in the middle of one of the films, usually leaving after saying those immortal words: ‘This is where we came in.’

The Savoy was opened on December 16, 1912 by F.W. de Lentman and it began by showing silent films.

It was quickly taken over by George and Maude Oliver and it was Maude’s brother, Alf Marshall, who was the projectionist for many years there.

George Oliver Snr died in 1914 and the Savoy was passed to his son, George Jnr.

However he was unable to run the cinema as he was soon conscripted into the army.

The Savoy was kept going during this time by his mother, Maude and his sister, Joyce until the First World War came to an end.

The two ladies ran a two-house system which was hugely popular and had its own claim to fame.

At that time, the cinema became noted for its late finishing.

On some occasions, the showings were so late that visitors from outside the Southwick area would have to leave before the end to ensure they caught the last tram home.

In 1918, the Savoy began to hold live variety shows on Sunday evenings but very quickly reverted to films as their popularity increased.

Silent films were the order of the day there for more than a decade until the next big innovation in the film world. Along came the ‘talkies’ and they arrived in the late 1920s.

The Savoy had something that was unique in the local world of the picture house.

Unlike any other Wearside cinema, it projected the films from BEHIND the screen.

The cinema was eventually taken over by the family of the projectionist, Alf Marshall, whose brothers had interests in other local cinemas.

Those other venues included The Bromarsh which stood at the north end of Wearmouth Bridge.

Like many other local cinemas, the Savoy struggled in the 1950s as the popularity of television increased.

And eventually, falling attendances brought about its sad closure.

The final film which was shown lit up the screens on March 7, 1959.

It was The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit and it starred the movie star Gregory Peck.

And at the end of the performance the National Anthem was played in the building for the very last time.

The Savoy was one of three Wearside cinemas to close in 1959, the others being The Palace in the town centre and The Cora at the Wheatsheaf.

A few of the old Wearside cinemas became bingo halls including the Savoy and bingo flourished in the building for many years.

The cinema, which faced the Green, was a Southwick landmark for over a century but sadly is no more.

However memories survive and if you have any of the old place then email: chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk