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Crushing finale for super Savoy cinema in Swaythling in Southampton
The opening of the Savoy Cinema saw Swaythling become the latest of Southampton suburbs to have its own cinema and brought the town’s total of motion picture houses to 18.
Opened on November 10, 1938 by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor G E Prince, the cinema, which cost £30,000 to build, was described favourably by the Deputy Mayor at the opening ceremony, as he gushed over the “excellent design” of the building during his speech.
Along with the “modern facilities”
within the building, there was an air of tangible excitement at Swaythling’s newest venue as cinema-goers shuffled in to watch the cinema’s first picture.
The first film shown at the new cinema was Jezebel, starring Bette Davis, Henry Fonda and George Brent, with a ticket costing patrons 6d.
The Savoy, which continued to be known as the town’s “newest cinema”, was only 21 years old when it closed its doors at the end of March 1959.
A very reflective Mr B Mayer, the Savoy’s manager at the time, conceded that the introduction of television sets into homes, coupled with a rise in purchase tax, had caused the cinema to lose its appeal.
It wasn’t very long before the doors at the 1,032-seater cinema were forced to close for the final time.
The Savoy was one of five cinemas in the district that was forced to close as it failed to attract audiences and make the money it desperately needed to survive.
Of the five that closed in the town around that time, the Plaza at Northam became part of the Television Centre, and the sites of the Portswood Palladium and the downtown Gaiety were occupied by a self-service store and a bank, respectively, while the Rialto at Shirley remained closed.
Ironically the last film to be shown at the Savoy was one of the great boxoffice money spinners of the day, The Bridge on the River Kwai, but there was to be no encore for the theatre, which fell to the bulldozers when it was demolished in the summer of 1961.