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Article & photgraphs by Paul Wright, 2022

front steps
A rainy outlook

main door signage
Main door
Car park signage

How many romances were ignited by a first date at the Ritz cinema? Or maybe a relationship sadly came to an end there?

Usually us lads would be sitting downstairs, and if we were talking too loudly. A torch beam would illuminate the offenders doing the nattering, and the infamous Snowy, would bark out keep the noise down! He was one of the men who were employed to keep some sort of order during the films. A couple of other names I recall were a young chap called Baz Graham, a sort of assistant to Snowy, and a more senior character called Syd, who was a smartly dressed commissionaire in a uniform. From my distant memory, I think the manager was a rather charming Mr Knighton?

One of the usherettes who worked at the Ritz during the 1960’s was Jennifer Tobin, she lived at South Grove in Wymington. And her next door neighbour also worked at the Ritz behind the scenes doing just about every job under the sun. He was called Mick Vissian, and he would have a taxi to work on most days. Another name you may remember was Bob Tysoe, an electrician during the Ritz years. I do believe his son was also a sparky, called Syd Tysoe.

At the interval the race to the kiosk to get a small box of Paynes Poppets, or Toffetts, etc., a rather noisy wax carton of Kia-ora, it was at its most annoying hearing the last dregs being sucked up.

There were three film programmes shown each week: Tuesday & Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday, and Sunday & Monday, so who needed a television? And of course this was a thriving and busy town then, with so much to keep us occupied.

At the end of the night we would exit through the side door next to the gents loo, into Alfred Street, and head off along High Street South to the Pop Inn, a coffee bar, which was next to the excellent chip shop run by Mr Graham Collins.

If you lived in other parts of the town you well catered for in that department: Princes’s in Wellingborough Road, Arthur Northover along Moor Road, Jimmy’s in Irchester Road, and along Cromwell Road, there was a really traditional chippy called “Quennell’s,” at number 44.

After we had tucked in to our fish and chips we would walk home to Wymington, or catch the 11pm bus, which was going through to Hinwick (yes there was a bus at 23.00 in Rushden).

A fine example of advertising from the mid 1960's can be seen on the link to a Ritz programme. Other previous traders can be seen, as far I know they have all folded now.

It is some years since the closure of the Ritz cinema, which was our last cinema in town, becoming the "Flutters" bingo hall back in 1991. At one stage Rushden enjoyed the choice of three cinemas; they were the Palace (in the High Street), The Royal Variety Theatre (now Asda supermarket), and finally the Ritz in College Street.

Former local adverts
So we were spoiled for choice to watch the latest films on the big screen; this was at a time when the television was still in it’s infancy. If you had a television it would have only had the BBC, until ITV came along around here in 1956. All broadcasting in black and white of course, with 405 lines on screen. (technical term!)

It was some years later, before BBC 2 came on air in 1964, and November 1982 before the likes of Channel 4 came alive. Finally at the end of March 1997 Channel Five launched. All with the much improved 625 lines on screen.

In 1990 British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) encrypted their digital signals from the Marco Polo satellite, and you needed a decoder box, and the their distinctive and short lived square dish.

Sky television were originally using the inferior analogue broadcast signal, and it seemed the that the two broadcasters would need to merge to survive.

Just think back to the 1980‘s, and the dilemma facing tech chasing TV viewers; were you going to choose a Video 2000, a Beta-Max, or the VHS tape recorders?

In the end VHS won (Video Home System) although this was probably the weaker of the three for viewing quality. But was pushed by the likes of companies such as “Granada” and “Radio Rentals” etc. A 3 hour video tape could cost over £10 to record the Christmas films off the TV. All this prior to digital downloading via the internet of today.

Flutters Bingo opened in the Ritz Cinema building in September 1991. Some films had continued to be screened during school holiday afternoons into the mid-1980s.


It was back in November of 1936 that the big screen first flickered in to life, showing the “Trail of the lonesome pine" co-starring Henry Fonda. The seating was comfortable, and it held over a 1000 film goers, 721 were downstairs, and 470 upstairs in the circle.

You may be wondering what the first film to be shown at the Lakes Cineworld was? This was Toy Story 4, and it opened on Friday June 28th, 2019. A ticket would have set you back £11.60 for an adult to see that film. The Cineworld Group plc was founded in 1995 and is now one of the leading cinema groups across Europe, and employs 28,000 people.

The last call for “eyes down” at the former Ritz building went ahead at Flutters on Monday, December 19th, 2022.

And after 40 years, the dozen Rushden staff members went down the famous steps in College Street for the last time, after getting together for a Christmas party.

So let us all think back to having so many happy times at the Ritz.

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