The person outside the "Golden Domes" cinema in Streatham
High Road is Andy's father, Reginald F Andrews. Note the ornate
gas street lamps, and tram line in the road. Whilst Reg thought
the picture was taken in 1937, the two films being shown were
released in 1934 so we thought an earlier date to be more likely.
Very welcome information came from Spencer Hobbs who has researched
the "Streatham News" archives and found
the advertisement on the right which nicely places the photograph
to the week commencing 20 July 1934. In
retrospect the lack of ABC logo (see below) should have alerted
us to a date earlier than 1935. Spencer tells us that the Golden
Domes was one of six cinemas to have existed in Streatham.
Advert from the "Streatham News," 30 Jul 1934.
Reg grew up in Didcot, Berks but showed a great interest in the cinema
and things technical from an early age. He worked at his school's
Cinema Club in Didcot during his early teens and by the time he was
16 he was 4th Operator at a cinema in Reading. After a move to Yeovil
to help open a new cinema there Reg moved to the Golden Domes as Chief
Operator in 1932. The cinema was bought by the ABC group (Associated
British Cinemas) in 1935 at which point he became its Manager. The
"Golden Domes" showed its last film in 1938 when it was
replaced by the new Regal, Streatham that had been built further along
the High Street.
|The Plaza, Catford (right) was Reg's next
cinema and he returned there several times later in his career.
We have other photographs showing the World famous clown, Coco,
outside the Ritz when he visited the cinema to promote road
safety for children.
The film "Left Right and Centre",
which starred Ian Carmichael and Alastair Sim, was released
In 1941 Reg was called up and appointed to the Army's Cinema
Service (part of the RAOC) and in 1945 he was selected to
join a then secret mission on the Cunard ship 'Franconia'
taking senior officials to the Yalta Conference (attended
by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin). During the voyage he
showed films to Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Viscount
Alanbrooke and, once arrived at the conference, Molotov.
Many of the films were from the war front, and he was told
never to discuss what he saw and heard, but some of the popular
movies of the day were also screened to provide some lighter
After the war Reg worked at a number of South London cinemas
including the Regal, Streatham; the Rex, Norbury and the
Capitol, Forest Hill. At the Capitol, Andy, then aged
about 5, was introduced to Dulcie Gray and Michael Denison
who were promoting their latest film, "The Glass Mountain".
Finally he went to the Ritz, Balham, shown on the right
and below. "Funeral in Berlin" was released in
1966 and starred Michael Caine as Harry Palmer and Oscar
Homolka as Colonel Stok.
The Ritz Cinema, Balham, 1966
Since we included the above on our site we have been delighted
to receive letters from two people with strong 'ABC' connections
who have added valuable material to the story:
Brian Eady from Wellington, Somerset was a regular
visitor to the Ritz Balham and recalls being taken to see,
amongst many others, "The Alamo" (1960) and "Tom
Always popular was 'Pathe News', although the death of Donald
Campbell on Coniston Water in 1967 is a less happy memory.
Brian particularly recalls (as does Andy) the catcalls and
whistles when love scenes came on screen, though these were
somewhat tame compared to modern offerings....
Brian recently discovered that the facade of the Ritz underwent
a re-build in the early 1950s and the balcony was installed
at the same time. Just to the left of the Ritz can be seen
the offices of Pearl Assurance, situated above a small supermarket;
the latter was opened by Jimmy Edwards and Brian still has
his autograph in the front of a copy of a Green Shield Stamps
catalogue from that day.
Ronald Alexander-Mace from Norbury South London was
an ABC employee between 1948 and 1954 and remembers Andy's
father well. ABC's policy of moving young managers from place
to place, and using them on relief duties, ensured that Ronald's
career involved periods covering a very wide area of South
London: Regal Purley, Savoy Croydon, Palladium Brixton, Regal
Beckenham, Majestic Mitcham, Picture House (Ritz) Balham, Prince
of Wales Lewisham, Capitol Forest Hill, Mayfair Tooting, Regal
Streatham, Rex Norbury, Plaza Catford, Regal Sidcup, Ritz Erith,
Regal Bexley Heath, Regal Old Kent Road, Regal Camberwell,
Elephant & Castle
(guess where that was!), Princess Crayford, and one at Gravesend.
The list of locations is testament to the scale and importance
of cinemas in our national life in those days. Where once huge
numbers of people would regularly come together 'at the movies',
many now stay at home and watch TV or DVD, possibly on their
Ronald recalls the screening of an experimental 3D movie at
the Plaza Catford and of the nightmare when one of the two
projectors broke down; he had to make several announcements
from the stage - to assorted catcalls and a slow hand clap
from the audience - as efforts were made to get the show going
It is an understatement to say that Ronald is a cinema buff
- in 1952 he was a founder member of the Cinema Organ Society
and still owns and plays a Hammond. Perhaps he can be persuaded
to write his memoirs one day.
The following picture of the Rex Norbury is reproduced with
Ronald's kind permission. Note the friendly constables providing
gentle crowd control (those were the days!).
The Rex Cinema, Norbury,
The films being shown are "Swing Time" and "Mister
both made in 1936; the latter starred Jack Haley who was perhaps
best known for his part as the 'Tin Man' in The Wizard of Oz
made in 1939. It is known that the Rex opened in 1937 and
the winter coats and leafless trees suggests the photo was
taken in Jan/Feb of that year. Also the small shops either
side of the entrance are still boarded up and incomplete, so
we might guess that the official opening day was close. Possibly
the crowds and police presence are evidence of the picture
being taken on opening day itself. Note the small logo near
the top of the building and compare it with the grand version
later applied to all ABCs like the Plaza, above.
The Rex was eventually turned into an office block where,
quite by chance, Ronald was later located while working in
a quite different industry.
Anyone interested in London cinemas might be interested to
read "The Cinemas of Croydon" by Allen Eyles and
Elsewhere on the internet:
High Road, November 1978, a photograph by Brian Whittle