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Picture Palaces of Liverpool

8 April 2016 by Anne

Black and white photo of cinema

Paramount, London Road (1934)

The Reel Stories exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool focuses on original film posters and memorabilia to celebrate Liverpool’s role in films over the past 60 years. Alongside this, the exhibition also includes a large panel which reproduces a selection of Stewart Bale images that highlight some of Liverpool’s and the surrounding area’s, more sumptuous picture palaces of the past; built in the hey-day of cinema-going, these buildings often matched the glamour of the silver screen, with many constructed in the sleek lines of modern Art Deco architecture.

Included in the display of Bale images is this one of the Paramount Theatre cinema, London Road, Liverpool (1934). It is a night shot commissioned by Boro Electric Signs, Manchester during the year of its completion, to record the neon lighting which brings the Art Deco defining lines into brilliant life.

Cinema goers can be seen, mostly in a semi-transparent flock around the entrance underlining the huge popularity of films at that time. The ‘ghost’ images in this photograph are due to the long exposure, so that anyone not standing totally still would only be partially captured.

The Paramount was a cinema of enormous capacity and popularity but after more than three quarters of a century and changes in ownership the building was eventually demolished in 2010/11, further altering Liverpool’s landscape and making photographs such as this one all the more significant as an invaluable record of Liverpool’s architectural and social history.

The firm of Stewart Bale Ltd. were commercial, architectural and industrial photographers based in Liverpool and guaranteed a quality that placed them at the forefront of their profession, both locally and nationally. This selection of cinema images from the Stewart Bale collection record in all their original splendour, some of Liverpool’s significant picture palaces during the golden age of cinema-going; it is photographs such as these that allow us to look back and experience some of the visual impact that these buildings once held and examine our history.

If you’d like a little piece of Liverpool’s cinematic history in your home reproductions of these stunning images as postcards, cards and prints are for sale in our Museum shop or online.

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