Plan to restore cinema
Katherine Vine
April 09, 2010

A historic Art Deco cinema left crumbling for decades is to be renovated.

The Essoldo has stood empty since 1994, sparking outrage from people with fond memories of the Grade II listed landmark.

Campaigners who battled to save the Chester Road structure from further decay expressed delight work has finally begun. John Schofield, who can see the cinema, formerly called The Longford, from his bedroom, said: “It was the most luxurious cinema I have ever been in anywhere. It was very sad when it closed down. “I still have letters my wife wrote when I was in the forces saying ‘we must go to The Longford – we haven’t been in ages’. “It is an absolute eyesore at the moment so it would be wonderful if something could be done with it.”

The Essoldo’s owner, a Stretford businessman who wants to stay anonymous, said the building’s frontage will be made watertight and dilapidated side walls patched up. He added he hopes it will remain an entertainment venue. “There is a lot of work scheduled, including a complete repaint, but lately the weather has slowed us down a bit,” he said. “There are plans in the pipeline which we hope to be able to make progress on later in the year.”

Essoldo fan Matthew White, who runs http://www.longfordcinema.co.uk, described the work as ‘really encouraging’. He said: “Maybe it’s time for Stretford to get behind the owners and offer support.”

The Essoldo started life as The Longford Cinema in 1939. During the Second World War it was used for Sunday concerts involving various stars of stage and screen, including a young Julie Andrews, and also played host to the Hallé Orchestra when it was bombed out of the Free Trade Hall in 1940. In 1950 it was bought by The Essoldo Circuit, which ran it as a cinema until 1965.

It has subsequently opened as a bingo hall and club, before being sold again in 1997 to its present owner.