Cinema Doubles Up – A New look at the Hippodrome 1988

Barry Flanagan outside the Hippodrome

A NEW era is about to be ushered in at Wrexham’s sole remaining cinema, the Hippodrome, with plans to install twin screens. Preliminary work on the £100,000 project starts next week, and the two screens are expected to be ready for use by the end of September. Cinema owner Mr Barry Flanagan pledged last night that the unique character of the former variety hall would be retained. He said that since the Vogue Cinema, which he also owned, closed following a fire in September 1986, it had been a struggle to show all the films that he knew would be popular with local audiences. “There is no intention of re-opening the Vogue. We want to keep everything under one roof,” he said. “The Hippodrome has had an incredible run. It was the first cinema in the town to show talking pictures, and it is the last. “Over the past two years, the number of blockbusters coming out has increased and with the trend nationally towards multi-screens, we hope the two screens will secure the future of the cinema for a while yet. “We can add a further one later.” The Hippodrome was opened in 1909 as a variety hall, and Mr. Flanagan has instructed builders carrying out the conversion this summer that its original interior architectural details must be retained.

Barry Flanagan outside the Hippodrome

Alive

Next week workmen will begin installing a new projection box, upgrading toilets, the box office area, and passageways. Seating capacity, now 627, may be increased to about 650 in the new layout. Mr. Flanagan stepped in to buy the Hippodrome, which was closed at the time, 27 years ago and has since kept the medium alive in the town.

Double Vision

A WREXHAM cinema which was a music hall at the turn of the century is now delighting movie-goers by converting to two screens. The work at the Hippodrome will be completed at the end of October when the balcony section and the stalls will be transformed into two separate cinemas. Manager Barry Flanagan says he is staying abreast of demand by offering film buffs a choice.

Staff member Dave Thomas from DHD Engineering in Llay, with welder Esmor Hooson, putting the finishing touches to the frame.

`It’s the only way to keep up with current films – there are so many good films about that you fall behind with just one screen.’ Blockbusters such as Crocodile Dundee and Fatal Attraction can run for a month or more, he explained, which means movie fans currently must wait that long to see another film. The cinema is getting a facelift at the same time. There will be refurbished toilets and new seating downstairs as well as bright new signs outside. The Hippodrome began life as music hall in 1909 but was the first theatre to convert to talking films. During its theatre years, annual fund-raising pantomimes raised enough money to supply a ward at Wrexham’s War Memorial Hospital with beds. Despite the conversion, it has been ‘business as usual’. The scaffolding comes down and an army of mop-wielding cleaners move in each evening for the show to begin.

Thomas Gregg and John McHale from Artic Scaffolding in Buckley take to the ‘High Life’ well above the cinema floor.

Sources: Daily Post 03/06/1988; Wrexham Advertiser 13/10/1988; info supplied by Alan Wilkinson former employee at the Hippodrome.