Home of The Entertainer

Former Alhambra Theatre, Morecambe, Lancashire

Former Alhambra Theatre, Morecambe, Lancashire

The Alhambra Theatre, Morecambe, the location of Laurence Olivier’s performances as Archie Rice in the 1960 film The Entertainer, still exists though its interior has gone.

A major fire in 1970 completely destroyed the auditorium, including its roof, though the stage-tower remains.

When the shell was rebuilt the Dutch gable of the façade was removed and the proscenium opening was bricked up.

According to Tony Parkinson [‘Morecambe’s early cinemas’, Cinema Theatre Association Bulletin Vol 46, No 5 (September/October 2012), p 5] the interior of the fly tower remains intact.

The Alhambra was designed by the local architect Herbert Howarth as a music hall and opened in 1901.

Because it replaced the former West End market (1889), its ground floor was given over to shops and market stalls, with the auditorium at first-floor level.

Built at a cost of £50,000, it was a financial liability from the start.  The leader of the consortium that built it, Alderman Gardner, filed for bankruptcy in 1911 with liabilities of £62,257 12s 6d.

A new company took it over in 1919 for £50,000 and invested a further £30,000 on replacing the market stalls with twenty lock-up shops, replacing 700 of the 2,000 chairs with tip-up seating and installing a £,3,000 organ.

In 1927 it became a cinema full-time, and when sound was installed in 1930 it was renamed the Astoria.

It remained closed throughout the Second World War, and reopened in 1946 as a theatre.

After the 1970 fire the auditorium-space became a night club.  At present it’s closed.

There’s a compilation of clips from The Entertainer, with an oddly inappropriate music track, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrP-5BvYM68.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on seaside architecture, Away from it all:  the heritage of holiday resorts, Beside the Seaside:  the architecture of British coastal resorts, Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage and Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage, please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2013 Lancashire’s Seaside Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

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