From the Burnley Express Archive: Did you go to late night screenings at this popular cinema?

It is 50 years since the opening of Studios 1 and 2 (and later 3). Doesn’t time fly!
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There is nothing original in that comment but when my colleague, Susan Barker, sent me this image, I had that sinking feeling about “where has it all gone?”. Time, I mean.

The opening of Studios 1 and 2, with the nearby Broadsword, seemed like a new beginning to us youngsters. Yes, I was young then. Not quite finished at University, with a year to go, and a change of venue, from Manchester to the excitements of London’s University College.

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I am afraid that the latter got the better of me and I can remember little of 1970 in Burnley. Those were the days of the latter stages of Burnley’s Central Area Redevelopment, when almost all the property from Hall Street to Curzon Street was summarily pulled down, regardless of its heritage value.

The entrance to Studio 1 and 2The entrance to Studio 1 and 2
The entrance to Studio 1 and 2

We lost the old Market Hall, in 1968, I think. The Thorn Hotel, the Empress Hotel, the great spinning mill on the site of Burnley’s ancient corn mill and numerous Burnley stores and shops, Altham’s and Webster’s, among them.

The Burnley Express headline, at the time, was Twin Cinemas Launch(es) as the sun sinks on the Old Empire. This was a clever title referring to the sun setting on the British Empire and the final closure of the Empire cinema in Burnley. Of course, the two were not connected but, somehow, they seemed to be. Burnley had to face the new realities – whatever they were – just as Britain, its Empire already set, was preparing for its, abortive as we have since found out, European adventure.

The article infers that Studios 1 and 2 were owned by the Star Group and that they were to open on Monday, July 29th, 1970, with the last show at the Empire Cinema, also Star owned, on the night before. The Star Group also ran the Palace, which had shown its last film in 1962 but was converted for bingo, finally being demolished in 1973, as part of the town centre redevelopment plan.

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A special feature of the new cinemas was to be late night opening each Saturday, beginning at about 10-30 pm. The manager was to be Mr Robert Bush who had been in charge of the Empire for the past 18 months.

The Star Group had pioneered the twin cinema concept, and their newest venture in Burnley (they had 90 cinemas in the country) had a central projection room, with separate film projection units for each auditorium. There was a single foyer and booking office but the cinemas themselves were described as the “last word in luxurious design and lush furnishings”.

Unfortunately, Studios 1 and 2, and the Broadsword, for that matter, were not as long-lived as one might have hoped. For a time, Burnley was the largest town in England not to have a cinema, though a locally owned cinema, Unit 4, operated in Brierfield.