Beamish Museum to Restore 103-Year-Old Cinema Brick by Brick

Posted: 29th July 2015

The former Grand Electric Cinema in Ryhope is to be painstakingly relocated and restored to its former glory at Beamish Museum. The original cinema, built in 1912, will be taken down, brick by brick, and be rebuilt at the County Durham Museum’s '1950s Town', where it will be used to screen films, newsreels and period adverts. The Grand Electric Cinema has been donated to the museum by owners Angela and Gary Hepple, who have until recently been using it as a garage.

Richard Evans, Beamish Museum’s Director, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to announce that this fantastic building, which tells a fascinating story about the community in Ryhope, will be part of our Remaking Beamish project.  We’re still in the planning stages of the 1950s Town project, pulling together the buildings and the stories and objects we need. We’re hoping to begin a four to five-year construction period next year. This building will form the centrepiece of the new town which has already touched a nerve, evoking memories of the period for many people.”

The Grand Electric, he said, was a fine example of the cinemas that once proliferated in towns and villages across the region, although many had become “victims of progress”, being turned into bingo halls and then demolished. “You might go in during the day and see a Pathé newsreel but we might show films in the evening. We are experimenting with evening openings.”

The cinema in Ryhope has been officially handed over to Beamish by the Hepples, who spoke of their excitement about the project: “We are delighted that the cinema will be brought back to life by Beamish Museum, where the people of Ryhope will be able to reminisce with their families during visits to Beamish."

The Ryhope cinema was built in 1912 and closed in the 1960s before later becoming a bingo hall. The rebuilt cinema will use a 1930s projector that was collected from Durham University.

Beamish is keen to hear people’s memories of the cinema in Ryhope and would love to speak to anyone who used to work there. Contact Geraldine Straker, Remaking Beamish Project Officer, via telephone on 0191 370 4060 or email.

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