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”.