Remembering the glory days of Saturday morning cinema in Sunderland

Fifteen hundred screaming young film fans could certainly make a racket.

Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 5:45 pm
The ornate entrance to a Sunderland cinema.

And they did every Saturday morning when they met for the film club at the picture house.

Last week, we began telling Bill Mather’s story of what life was like at the Matinee Minors event which was held at the ABC Ritz.

It was child heaven. Now, after the interval, let’s settle down to the main feature.

Holmeside August 1963 old ref number 33-4155 Odeon Cinema ABC Cinema

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Saturday film sessions usually had a 10-minute break before it was lights out again.

And then, in the second half, came the highlight of the week for any Sunderland child – the serial.

Just imagine waiting all week to see thrilling on-screen entertainment such as Nyoka The Jungle Girl, Brick Bradford or King Of The Congo.

“We were always waiting for the serial shown every week and consisting always of between 13/15 episodes.”

Cinemas would be packed for the Saturday morning Minors Club.

That’s almost three months worth of film and a sure-fire way of keeping a youngster gripped.

Bill said: “I experienced an awful lot over my some 5 years or so of weekly visits

“Of course we all cheered and booed at the villains and you could hear the roars over in Roker Park I am sure.

“Always around 11.45/noon latest the show finished. I always recall when leaving the circle and coming down the foyer stairs there was always around four cleaning ladies in overalls on their knees scrubbing the terrazzo floor and telling us to keep to the left.

“The whole cinema had to be re-cleaned within about half an hour as best as possible for the start of the main attraction showing.”

The only downside of a children’s club was the occasional disorderly behaviour.

“One thing I always remember,” said Bill, “was that for some reason on certain Saturdays the downstairs lot in the stalls went wild and Mr Holmes (the manager Fred Holmes) used to sometimes get annoyed and tell them through the Microphone … ''If you lot downstairs don't behave I will instruct the projectionist to take off a cartoon!

“One Saturday, it made no difference and he then said: "Ok, take 2 cartoons off so now you have NO cartoons!”

“All of a sudden everything went quiet downstairs and of course it did the trick but I did notice that ONLY ONE cartoon was actually shown that Saturday.

“But it did do the trick and he tried that a few times after and it worked.”

Bill later became a cinema owner himself and said: “I tried it too for many years after and believe me it also worked!!”.

A highlight of being a member of the ABC Minors Club was a membership card and a Minors Badge.

Who still has theirs?

Bill added: “We all felt proud and often wore it on our lapel even when at school.”

For readers of a certain era, this was the theatre of dreams. Were you one of them?

Email chris.cordner@jpimedia.co.uk and tell us more.