By now, many readers will have had lunch or dinner at the new Picture House restaurant which opened in Ruthin this year—or, at the very least peeped inside to have a look. I had lunch there recently with mayor Hafina Clwyd. Having taken in the grand décor, rich red crushed velvet cushions flock wallpaper, dim lighting, and of course, the sloping floor, a wistful look passed over Hafina. She sighed, “I only rememberer the back row!” It started life as a cinema back in 1924, when some Ruthin businessmen got together to cash in on the very latest craze. The Ruthin Cinema Company was established with a capital of £2,500, and shares of £1 each. To qualify as a director you had to purchase at least 50 shares; remuneration was voted on by the company. The first directors were J.H. Davies of Berwyn, Llanfair DC, G. E. Tonge of Southport and a butcher with a shop in Crown House. The new cinema was built on land adjacent to Plas Tirion; it had a sloping floor and luxury seating, and incorporated two shops with office accommodation upstairs.On September 13th, 1924 the Free Press announced that on the following Monday the cinema would open with Harold Lloyd topping the bill in the film “Safety Last. Why Worry?” The town band attended and seats were priced at 6d, 1/- and 1/6d. The cinema was a great success until the advent of television in the 1950s when audiences started to dwindle, and eventually The Picture House closed. Hannah Davies who works in my shop, recalls dancing in the aisles to Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”.
It seems that everyone of a certain age, brought up in Ruthin, has fond memories of the old Pidure House.After it closed as a cinema, the building was used for various purposes, including as a ballroom dancing studio. When I moved to Ruthin in 1976, it housed Warren's Food Store, an Aladin’s cave of goods; there was nothing you couldn’t purchase in this sloping floored emporium, as long as you didn’t look at its sell-by date! At about the time Lo-cost (now Co-op) arrived, Warren’s closed but some say that Mr Warren is still using up the stock! Since then, the building has been used as an exercise studio, a furniture warehouse, and even for a taxi company. Then it was empty for several years until Roy and Janet Hughes took it over. The interior has been restored with the old cinema in mind—hence the sloping floor—but it has a modern twist, and the large patio windows on to a courtyard have exquisite views out across the meadow. Janet told me that the kitchen was once the Royal Box, but she didn’t think a royal had actually sat there. The Pidure House has good food and an easy going ambience, and, judging by the constant flow of customers, local couple Roy and Janet seem to have hit just the right note to give the place a new lease of life. [When the restaurant and pub closed, after a period of being empty, it re-opened as a large antiques dealer which also closed, whereupon the Picture House lies empty]
80 Years of Going to the Picture House
A potted history written in September 2008 by BOBBY FEELEY