October 23 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
To a generation of boys and girls it was known as the Ranch House because of all the westerns it showed while most grown-ups just called it the ‘TDL’ – thank you for all your memories of the first “picture palace” in Norwich which closed back in the 1950s.
It was the end of an era during which the old Theatre de Luxe in St Andrew’s entertained and informed the people... before being smashed up on its last night back in 1957 when louts ran riot and the police were called.
This was the first building in the city designed for films, where the manager was Archie Gibbs, a gifted musician, who had joined the cinema business in the orchestra pit for the silent films.
During the glory days of the cinema most of them, in the city at least, had commissionaires in smart uniforms. Sometimes ex-military men who looked the part and kept an eye on everyone – making sure everything was tickety -boo and people behaved themselves.
At the Ranch House it was Jock. A real character and among those who remembered him with great affection was David Tye of Norwich.
“The man in the uniform in the picture was Jock, he kept order over us in those days. We were all young and because of the war, we were not big lads, like the youth of today,” said David.
“We used to queue up outside if the cinema was full and wait for people to come out. Then Jock would shout how many seats they had. Sometimes we could stand inside by the aisle and when someone got up, you could ask them if they were leaving – and rush to get the seat,” he added.
For the boys the heroes of the day included Superman and Flash Gordon. Most Saturdays Norwich would be full of young lads, running around, acting out the adventures they had seen.
“I went there in the 1950s and they showed a 3D film and we were handed a pair of cardboard glasses. The picture looked like it was coming right at you,” said David who loved the dear old Ranch House.
Heather Copeman of Norwich described the TDL as being in a class of its own.
“We loved the cowboy films and you could have a cup of tea for 2d in the interval. There will never be another place like it.”
A fall in attendances coupled with its failure to meet safety standards resulted in its closure in February 1957. The hooligans in the audience went berserk, tearing the dear old place apart, damaging seats, ripping down the screen and reeling out fire hoses.
A sad end. The building was left to rot, and was finally pulled down to provide a yard for the neighbouring telephone exchange.