Hey all, new to the boards but an avid fan of UE websites... sadly I'm too poor and too isolated at Aberystwyth University to ever do much myself! Anyway, I've linked to the Wigan World website where my pictures of a recently-demolished cinema were posted, it was on Station Road which was also where the famous Wigan Casino was until it burnt down.
The entire street has now been demolished to make way for the 'Grand Arcade', possibly the most appaulingly designed new building I have ever seen. I mean it's pink for fuck's sake.
Aaaanyway, The Ritz cinema was opened in 1938 and played host to The Beatles, Buddy Holly and the Rolling Stones along with the regular movies until it was converted into a triplex in 1977, The Spy Who Loved Me being the first movie screened in the redevelopment.
In 1996, Richard Branson opened the first purpose-built Virgin Megaplex at Robin Park (next to the JJB Stadium) which is the main reason for the Ritz's downfall. In 1997 it was bought by an Indian I believe who played a lot of oriental films but due to Wigan's lack of ethnic minorities, it was short lived and the theatre finally closed in March 1998. It was the last of the town centres 6 traditional cinemas to close.
I visited in July 2004, six years after closure, and it was in pretty remarkable condition with only damage to the projection booths for screen 1 & 2 due to pigeons shitting all over the place through a broken window. Word of advice - ALWAYS take a mask with you, I didn't and the stench of literally hundreds of dead birds coupled with crap over a foot deep in places gave me a pretty nasty infection. As the bingo hall that occupied the former circle was still open, power to the building was still on which gave one hell of an eerie feel to the place! Perhaps the biggest shock of my life too came when I was in screen one (450 capacity) and on the stage looking at the screen - all of a sudden BANG! The curtains come flying towards me, forcing me into an unplanned stage dive only with no-one to grab me, just my mate laughing in the corner.
No Station Road is (or should I say was) about 15 minutes walk from Wigan Pier, it's in the town centre. The place was locked down like a motherfucker which is probably why there was no vandalism, coupled with the fact that there is no housing in the immediate proximity.
The amazing thing was when I figured out how to turn the foyer lights on, apart from the smashed kiosk glass you really would think it just closed a couple of weeks ago. Didn't even smell bad! Got myself a fair bit of memorabilia from it before the demo crew came in including popcorn boxes (amazing how smal they were), so of the letters used for the canopy, a box full of unused ticket stubs and a can of Pepsi that is now 8 years out of date. There was also a huge bag of pristine popcorn in a storeroom :-D
I did this a few times between April 2005 and up to demolition in June 2005. Tried to get the building listed through English Heritage, I was getting pretty far with it and English Heritage contacted me saying they would be sending a letter to the developers, Modus requesting access. The next day they demolished all the front of the building, 2 weeks ahead of schedule...the day that English Heritage had sent them the letter.
Here's the final photo I got, just after demolition had started. Unfortunately it was a really dull day with the sun completely blocked out by the clouds, otherwise I could of got some cracking photos!