The Ritz cinema in Thirsk always offers a great night out. At the Ritz, you’ll get an atmospheric place to watch all the latest films as they’re released for the big screen.
Tickets cost just £6 per adult, £5 for concessions (under 14s and over 60s) on Mondays and for matinee screenings.
History of the Ritz cinema
The Ritz cinema is one of the oldest cinemas in the UK. It first opened to the public in 1912 and has been showing films ever since.
In the 19th century, the building we know today as the Ritz was built as a Mechanic’s Institute. It was a place of learning a working for local people and had a library and lecture facilities where local tradespeople could come and learn from each other. Sadly, this network began to die out toward the end of the century, but it paved the way for the cinema we know and love today.
Local man Walter Power bought the building and converted it into a cinema for silent movies in 1912. Walter was a popular man and loved showmanship. He’d often sit in on the silent film screenings and play piano, matching his music to the mood of the film.
When the “talkies” were released in 1927, Walter invested in the building and increased its capacity by adding the balcony so he could accommodate larger audience sizes. The original silent movie screen with its distinctive crest can still be found behind the modern one.
Walter died in 1934, but his wife and daughter kept the cinema running until 1983. They then sold the building to the Schofield brothers from Leeds and the day-to-day management was taken over by a man called Mr. Buck.
Between the 20s and 50s, cinema was more popular than ever before. New cinemas were opening in Thirsk and competing against the Ritz. The Gaiety Cinema, which opened on Long Street, mysteriously burned down in 1930, and the space it once occupied is now a tyre depot.
Due to the large number of new people to the area in the Second World War, the Ritz and its continuing rival, the Regent Cinema, were both able to do a great trade.
In 1953, the Ritz cinema was bought by a company called Star Group who ran nearly 100 cinemas across the country. One of our current projectionists Peter Barr started his apprenticeship during this time and has seen all the changes to the Ritz that have happened since.
The rise of television
The rise of television brought a big dip in the number of people who were heading to the cinema for their nightly entertainment. Falling profits meant the cinemas in Thirsk had to diversify a little, and in the 1970s bingo was introduced to the cinemas and the Ritz was renamed as Studio One. The Regent stopped showing films and converted into a full-time bingo hall. Unfortunately, the Regent was demolished in 2006 and all that remains of the old building is the west wall. The Ritz too had to close.
In 1974, enthusiast of local cinema Ken Cartman took on the Ritz cinema and set about bringing film back to the area. He had some initial success when he leased the old town hall next door and gave it a refresh as the Central Cinema. The local interest dwindled but Ken didn’t give up, and by 1981 the Ritz was back in business.
Thirsk community interest
In 1995, a public meeting was held after the Ritz cinema had been opened and closed under a few different owners throughout the 80s and early 90s. The attendees came up with a plan to open the cinema once again under the control of the Town Council and being run by volunteers.
The continued support of previous owners, Ken Cartman, Peter Barr, and Geoff Rose, allowed for the Ritz cinema to reopen in 1995. After a 12 month partnership and a small profit on the screenings, control over the cinema passed to the Volunteer Management Committee. Since then, the cinema has had many improvements, including a new screen, better seating, improvements to the décor and the installation of Dolby SR surrounds sound.
Will you visit to North Yorkshire include a trip to this wonderful little cinema?