Cash till cinema divided opinion

Reproduced from the Sale & Altrincham and Stretford & Urmston Advertiser 11/05/11. Advertiser report Andy Buckley is stopping off on the A56 to tell your stories. This week he visits a landmark on Chester Road that’s hard to miss.

The Essoldo in Stretford is guaranteed to split opinion. Critics say it should have been knocked down years ago, its distinctive shape making it stick out like a sore thumb. For others it’s a reminder of a bygone age.

The owner, who lives in Sale, prefers to remain anonymous as a long running debate continues over its future. There has been speculation it may become a roller rink and recently the exterior was smartened up, fuelling hope that progress could be made, 16 years after it closed as a bingo hall. All appears to have gone quiet since the minor facelift, suggesting another long wait before the next move.

The art deco design started off as the Longford Cinema in 1936, its architect clearly having a sense of humour. It was built in the shape of a cash register as a symbol of the money generated by Hollywood. It was a revolution in design with under-seat heating and neon tube lighting. For a week every month it was used a s a theatre and a young Julie Andrews appeared there during the Second World War. In 1950 it became the Essoldo after a change in ownership and remained as a cinema until 1965, after which it was turned into a bingo hall. It was eventually sold off in 1997.

My friends and family have often made derogatory comments about the Essoldo, but for some, the building still retains a certain fascination. Matthew White set up a website dedicated to it – www.longfordcinema.co.uk .He said: “I was surprised by how many people from all over the world who used to live in Stretford got in touch with me. It was an incredibly unusual building and it’s sad that it’s been empty for so long. The facade was crumbling and it became invisible to the people of Stretford. I wanted to get people talking about it again. If it becomes a roller rink then I’ll be happy because it’ll get people back in the place again”.

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5 responses to “Cash till cinema divided opinion

  1. For the record, I think the building is a thing of beauty! Re opening as whatever (but with heritage preserved) is fine by me!

  2. Long live this beautiful building,those who knock it have no appreciation of
    the Art deco period of the thirties which manifested itself in the Golden Age of Super Cinema building.

    Henry Elder was on top form the day he designed this Cinema and we will remember him for his unique design.

  3. I have no connection with Sale or the Essoldo, but I loved this building when I saw it for the first time in 2009. It is an iconic art deco building and the people who moan that it “sticks out like a sore thumb” are, frankly, architectural illiterates.

  4. i think it looks great now, love the blue just wish they would finish it off, it looks like the paint ran out, i really hope it gets used for something would love to see inside again.

  5. Chris Adshead

    Hi!

    I must say that I feel this structure is a beast, it needs to be unleashed to the World. It’s quite possibly my favourite building in the whole of South Manchester, I’ve enjoy looking at this for all of my 26 years, it’s a joy to see it being cared for and restored. Friends and family from out of the area have always commented on this building, always baffled, but always positive.

    I hope along with being a roller-rink(?) other things can happen there. If the floor is level, does that mean it’ll be like the Ardwick Apollo, with a huge stalls standing area and a seated balcony above? If the Apollo can become a top venue in a fairly awkward location, then surely this place can survive?

    The owner/s seem to love this place, kudos to them, well done. I wonder who it is, does anybody know? Maybe a Stretfordian come good? I too would restore and preserve this beauty had I the finances. I wish I could go inside and have a look round.

    Chris x

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