As 2014 was the Centenary Year of the Savoy Theatre, we have been trying to find out some of its history. It seems that there is very little documented detail other than that it was built c1914 as the Picture Theatre and it was an exciting, new leisure venue. For the time it was a "small" cinema with seating for 560 and the proscenium was only 18 feet wide.

The Theatre is located on Collenna Road, Tonyrefail, just up from The Square which is the centre of the town. From 1934 it was leased by Mr W.R. Thomas, who ran the Empire Theatre in Llanbradach. It was known as the New Cinema and films were booked at the Empire.

In 1944 it was still managed by Mr W.R. Thomas, but renamed the Savoy Cinema with seating for only 500. By 1947 the Cinema was managed by a Mr T. Williams and operated until c1954, though it was still open in 1966. Cinema listings do not have any details from 1980 onwards but, it did operate as the Independent Savoy Bingo Club until c2002.

Daniel Robertson and Hayley Taylor purchased the building in October 2012, after it had lain empty for 10 years. They began the hard work of stripping out the bingo equipment and converting the building to a theatre. The auditorium will seat 207, and the proscenium stage will measure 14.2 mts by 8.5mts with full sound and lighting systems.

Other sources have linked the Savoy Cinema to the Empire Theatre in Tonypandy and photographs show the striking resemblance between the two buildings. There is also a building (Snooker Hall?) in Treforest, Pontypridd that is very similar, though we have yet to visit this venue.

The Empire Theatre of Varieties was opened in 1909 and was screening films with variety programmes on something called the "Empirescope". In 1929 sound equipment was fitted to enable them to show "Talkies"

The theatre was shut as a cinema in 1963, but was later used for bingo until it was demolished to make way for shops. It first became Woolworths and is now the site of Iceland.

Further research has found that the Empire Theatre has copies of plans lodged with the Local Authority in the National Archives. These plans show the Architects to be Geo. F. Ward and J.T. Jenkins of Birmingham and Porth.

Jackie has emailed the National Archives with a request for photocopies of these plans and any of the Savoy that they might hold. Searches for these two architects has so far drawn a blank.

We would like to ask if anyone has any information or photographs of either building, or others in the area that they know of, could you please email or post them to us? Also any details of the architects or their firm in Porth would be of interest.  

Any photographs will be scanned in and returned to you in their original form. We would also be grateful for any anecdotes about visits to either venue. They may seem trivial to you, but together they would form an interesting snapshot of early theatres and cinemas.

We have heard several stories during our Open Days but, have been slow to document them. You can be credited with any tales - risqué ones can be added anonymously!

Thanks for your help and we look forward to reading and collating your stories.

The Savoy Theatre Team.




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