The Tivoli cinema opened in 1935 and was situated on the corner of Main Rd & Towcester Road. The Tivoli was one of three cinema’s (the others being the Plaza and the Ritz) held by Cippin Brothers. The group was known as Midland Super cinemas.
The showings were from a Monday – Wednesday, Thursday – Saturday and a Sunday showing. There were stills of the film outside the Tiv so you could see what the film was all about. Going to the ‘Tiv’ was a way of getting information, communication of what was happening around the world, not only politics, but fashion and celebrities. During the war the ‘Tiv’ opened on a Sunday for the troops staying in the area.
The programme usually consisted of Pathe News (with a cockerel at the beginning) the A film, the B film, trailers and serials with some local adverts too. The news reel of which there was only one, was transported across town to the 3 cinemas for their different showings during the day. The serial included Buster Crabbe in Flash Gordon and Pearl White, Roy Rogers & Trigger.
The ‘Tiv wasn’t the most elegant of cinema’s. You walked up the front steps which led into a foyer which was carpeted, their were hanging curtains to the left and right. The kiosk on the right hand side was where you paid. On the left hand side a kiosk sold sweets, after the war it is remembered that Walls’ Snow Fruits could be bought. When crisps were sold and it wasn’t very often, people would finish them then blow up the bag and pop it, scaring viewers who were sitting in the dark watching the film.
It cost 10d downstairs, 1/6d upstairs (which was just 3 or 4 steps up) and 1/9d at the back which was carpeted, our memories recall that there were no pair seats, just individual, not all of them had backs as Gwen can tell you when she visited with her mum and others, she turned round to talk to one of them and they had disappeared because they’d fallen off the seat. The first 2 rows were wooden benches it was also very damp down the front.
The ‘Tiv’ was known for being cold; you often put more clothes on to keep warm and as you only had a couple of outfits you couldn’t really dress up could you. It had heaters situated half way up the walls and these were prone to falling down on you. Josie French remembers sitting with her umbrella up because the roof let wet. It was often disinfected or sprayed with DDT. Sheila recalls a visit to the cinema with her mum when she got home she thought she had been bitten whilst at the ‘Tiv’ but when her mum investigated there was a mouse, yes a mouse up her top. The mouse escaped and a neighbour had to capture it
If you couldn’t afford to go to the cinema, there was always your mate who would open the fire exit and let you slip in whilst the film was showing. This was more likely to have been the lads as there was a fire exit in the gents. Mr Sid Cipin was the manager, Mr Alec Ashby (nicknamed Buttons) was the doorman and a Mr Collins who was the assistant manager kept a beady eye open for this sort of behaviour. The projectionist was Dougie Woodford There was also another way to know what was happening with the film, around the back of the building (which might have been used when courting) there was a rather large air brick and if you put our ear close enough to it you could listen to the film. You would queue down the alley way for the Sunday night showing hoping to find someone who would take you in.
The films were black & white and films starred the likes of Alan Ladd, Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, Veronica Lake, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Charlie Chaplin, Tony Curtis & The Three Stooges. Doris Day & Betty Grable were watched in colour. If you joined a showing part way through you could sit and watch the film until you reached the part you came in on. Many often stayed and watched it all over again. The film always finished with the National Anthem, but by then the cinema was usually empty as people left as soon as the credits rolled. Some people moved up to the dearer seats once the programme had finished to do this.
Memories tell us that going to the cinema was a form of escaping reality, it was an imaginary world, something to look forward to and to let us dream dreams. The Tivoli closed it doors to cinema goers on 27th August 1960 and the last film was ‘We were strangers’