The Electric Theatre was opened in 1911 at the south end of the High St.

it was in fact not purpose built as a cinema but was “well established on talkies” by 1934, at which time it had 650 seats on one level and was owned by the W. Truman Dickens film circuit. The frontage had a confectioner’ shop at one end to provide people with sweets while watching the film and a Gent’s hairdresser’s at the other end to catch people after the show. It used a Morrison Sound System until the mid-40’s at which point it was refurbished and reduced to 400 seats.

The Electric Theatre was renamed the Majestic in the late 1930’s, but was shortly afterwards requisitioned by the Ministry of Food as a flour store. When it was de-requisitioned after the war it was no longer needed because of the Ritz Cinema building was now functional, although for a time both cinemas were publishing film advertisements. In the 1950’s the building  was sold to become a Woolworths store which eventually became the Covered Market we see today.

A typical programme for 1914 was advertised in the Burnham Gazette on 22nd Aug:

“A drama entitled ‘Nick Winter and the Masked Thieves’ was the principal feature……during the first half of this week. For the later portion terminating tonight (Saturday), a good variety of films will be screened, the list comprising a Pathe coloured cinema drama ‘His Guiding Star’; comedy in varied phases; and Gazette News.”

Review below from the Burnham Gazette 1915.

Programme and admission details for 1923, courtesy of Bob & June Thomas.


Built on the site of the old Lifeboat Restaurant pavilion.

A souvenir programme of the Ritz’s opening ceremony included this foreword about the building:

The building is designed to meet the requirements of the district Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 12.31.42and is equipped with all that is most modern in cinema practise, the complete comfort of the entire audience is assured, and entertainment in the full sense of the word will be provided. The construction of the cinema represents the welding together of skilled technicians, solid labour and British materials, and the proprietor would like to place on record his appreciation of the services both large and small, rendered by those who have contributed to the development of the Ritz, especially Frank Wilkins, the main contractors.

It has long been felt that a holiday resort such as Burnham-on-Sea should have a modern theatre, and it was with this end in view that an extensive and fully equipped stage was included in the scheme. Although the policy of the management will be to present, throughout he year, the pick of the world’s films, it is anticipated that occasional “live shows” will be staged.

Patrons who have enjoyed so many pleasant evenings at the “Majestic” will now, more than ever, be assured of entertainment equal to that presented in any of the larger towns, and it is the sincere wish of the proprietor that through the medium of the manager and staff a warm bond of personal contact will be established with patrons old and new.

Below are two pages from the souvenir programme.

Binnie Hale was presented with a bouquet by Jean Handel. Scans courtesy of Jean’s cousin Ann Popham.

Other movies shown during the first few weeks were:

‘The Broadway Gondolier’ a musical comedy with Dick Powell & Joan Blondell; ‘Hearts Desire’ with Richard Tauber; ‘Top Hat’ with Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers; ‘The Millionaire’, a comedy with George Arliss; ‘Someday’ a drama with Margaret Lockwood; ‘The Irish In Us’ another comedy with James Cagney & Pat O’Brien and ‘Shipmates Forever’ with Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. Coming attractions included George Formby in ‘No Limit’ and Flanagan & Allen in ‘A Fire Has Been Arranged.’

More information from the programme forward can be found at the link above.

Particular mention was also made of the auditorium in which “the  main decorative feature is the proscenium, which is of strikingly original design. This is illuminated by a system of three colour lighting, whilst the lighting of the remainder of the auditorium is in a pale amber shade….The side wsall treatment is by horizontal and vertical bands, leading across the ceiling, and thence enclosing the proscenium…..The stage curtains have been selected to form an integral part of the decorations, both architecturally and artistically, while the elaborate system of illuminating them, combined with the unusual lighting of the auditorium, give an infinite range of colour effects which are both novel and harmonious. The seating is of the most luxurious type, with super sprung seats and deeply curved backs”

The acoustics were enhanced by treating the auditorium with “the latest type of sound absorbing material. This eliminates any possibility of echo, and ensures a perfectly correct reverberation period.”



5 thoughts on “Cinema”

  1. Hello. I’m delighted to have found your site, via a mention in a 2019 CTA newsletter. My great-grandfather was William Trueman Dicken, who built the Ritz. It’s wonderful to see the inside of the cinema as it was then – and I’m thrilled that (according to the CTA review) it’s obviously still being so very well cared for inside and out. Unfortunately I’m in Durham so too far away to come and see it. But by a pure coincidence, I’m currently working at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House in Newcastle which was converted to a cinema in 1919! If anyone has any information on WT Dicken in relation to his management of the Ritz, I’d love them to get in touch.

    1. Thanks for your comment Rachel, glad you enjoyed the site. We don’t presently have any other information than what is on the page but if anyone does perhaps they will reply here. The cinema still seems to be going strong with 3 screens and offering a varied programme of current films.

  2. My mother, Heather Hagon (later Makins, then Cavell), then aged 7, presented Binnie Hale with a bouquet. She was very proud of this. Ben Travers referred to here was the play write who wrote many West End hits including the farce Rookery Nook. He lived in a large house off the Berrow Road which was famous for its parties I believe. This in the day when Burnham had style!!

    1. Hi Ben, I understand your Mum compiled a list of Charlie Pearson postcards. I have the first issue from 1978 where it alludes to expansion in time! Do you know if there was ever an update and where I can purchase a copy.

    2. Thanks for your comment Ben. We now have a dedicated page on Ben Travers under the ‘People / Scientists & Artists menu.

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