Imagine this for a moment…..it’s 3rd September, 1939. The prime Minister has just declared War on Germany and like many people in the Country, Blantyre residents listening to the radio were fearful about what kind of war would be coming, what kind of scale it would be on and nervous about their loved ones going off to fight.
That week on Glasgow Road, at the corner of Station Road, final decorative finishes were being made to the inside of the new Broadway Cinema in Blantyre. A huge, new brick building designed and constructed in peacetime with intention of entertaining Blantyre residents. The arrival of this cinema in Blantyre meant opportunity to view in pictures, what was happening in Europe and indeed in other Theatres of War during WW2 all over the world.
Plans to open went ahead and on Monday 18th September, 1939, just 2 weeks later, the Broadway opened, with seating inside which could accommodate 2,000 people! The building certainly had a nod to the art deco style of the era. This was a time after Blantyre trams and I’m sure queues around the Broadway would have made good use of the nearby confectionary shops first!
Doors opened at 2pm for the grand opening with the first showing at 2.30pm, Monday matinees times perhaps chosen for launch to avoid an inevitable rush of school children. The resident manager was Mr Peter Sharpe.
The first movie was “The Dawn Patrol” starring Errol Flynn, a big budget movie (for then) which screened for 3 days. The movie told the story of the early days of WW1 flying corps, with all the thrills and spills movie goers would expect, though the subject of war may not have been planned when the movie booking was originally secured!
Movies changed every few days, meaning a constant weekly interest from people of all ages. There’s no doubt it proved popular too. Customers could buy tickets in the front stalls for just 3d, the stalls 6d and the back stalls 9d or upstairs on the balcony with the best views for 1 shilling. Children could go half price.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays prices were a little cheaper, with films on continuously from 5pm. This meant films were played on ‘loop’, so you could enter the cinema anytime, in those early days queueing seen as an inconvenience. There would surely have been times when people came in to see the end of a film, rather than the start, something some people may still remember from more modern decades.
It’s clear the cinema made an impact on Blantyre during the 1940s, 50s and 60s and to this day is fondly missed.