top of page
  • Belfast Between The Wars


Belfast News-Letter, Saturday 7th December 1935

The Strand Cinema, at Gelston’s Corner, Holywood Road, a photograph of which is reproduced above, it one of the most notable of the new suburban theatres to be erected in Belfast. It is an impressive building, one which masses well, and offers a remarkable contrast to the castellated dwelling which formerly stood on the site. The use of rustic brick in the external walls has been very effective. The building stands on a triangular site at the corner, and by giving the entrance end a “flat-iron” shape on plan, with long windows running around the corner on the first and second floors, an effective result has been achieved. The architect is Mr. J. McBride Neill, of 14 Ann Street, who has successfully designed a considerable number of Ulster cinemas.

The outside treatment is modern, and the side walls have large panels finished in snowcrete. The roof is covered with tiles in a pleasant shade of red, harmonising with the rustic brick. At and above the main entrance, which is on the Holywood Road side, the walls are faced with cream coloured glazed faience.

The interior of the cinema is equally effective in its modern treatment, and it has much that is new. A very striking result has been obtained in the foyer by covering the floor with terrazzo in bold bars of colour – grey, red, black , and aluminium. It is a novel treatment, and shows new possibilities in the use of this floor material in cinema theatres. The pay-box also takes the eye, with its walls covered with white rubber and staybrite steel continuing the modern note. The foyer is large and triangular in shape, and there is ample natural light from the long window running around the corner at the apex of the triangle. Cloakrooms for both sexes open off the foyer.

Doors lead directly into the auditorium, and a staircase ascends to the balcony, passing on the way the very elegant café on the first floor.


The auditorium also strikes a new note, and functionalism is again the dominant idea. Everything is streamlined and horizontal, and every corner is rounded. On each of the splay walls of the auditorium are three rows of “portholes,” which are really lighting points. It suggests a great liner of the sea or the air, and when the lights are switched on the effect is very fine. It must be stressed, however, that there has been no attempt to suggest that the building is anything but a cinema.

Unlike many cinemas built in years gone by there is no over-decoration, but the auditorium has something new to show in cinema wall decoration, at least in Ireland. The walls have a ground of waterproof plastic paint, on which is sprayed a texture of metallic paint. The colour scheme has been carried out in monochromatic shades, and the general effect is bright and fresh. The “speckling” of the sprayed metallic paint is most attractive. A carpet, specially woven to a “snake” design, covers the auditorium floor, and gives a luxurious effect. The seats are of the latest type, and are the last word in comfort. The stage is equipped with a festoon type of metallic curtain. In the stalls there are 900 seats, and 270 in the balcony, a total of 1,170.

In shape and size the café corresponds to the foyer below it. The floor is covered with carpet similar to that in the auditorium. A service counter and soda fountain is conveniently placed, and the large horizontal bar type window overlooking the corner is the dominant feature of the design.

Plenum heating and air conditioning plat has been installed, ensuring a constant supply of fresh warmed air to the auditorium, café, &c.

This is the first of the suburban cinemas in Belfast to be opened under the control of the Union Cinema Co., of London. The next one to be opened – in the New Year – will be the Majestic, on the Lisburn Road, of which Mr. Neill is the architect.

The opening ceremony at The Strand will be performed this evening by the Lord Mayor, and as the cinema has aroused much public interest there is sure to be a large attendance. A big attraction will be the presence of the band on the 1st Battalion of the Welch Regiment.



Speed in construction is invariably required in a cinema, and a high degree of organisation and planning ahead is required of a contractor if he is to keep faith with the building owners. Messrs. Sloan Bros., of Pilot Street, general contractors for the Strand Cinema, put up the building in six months, a notable achievement, on which they are to be congratulated. Speed in construction was not achieved at the expense of workmanship, and in every detail the cinema is a thoroughly sound job. Messrs. Sloan have erected three cinemas in Belfast, and are at present building the big Tonic Cinema in Bangor, which will be the largest in Northern Ireland, and their experience in this class of work is invaluable.


Throughout the cinema the doors have been specially designed by the architect, and all were manufactured by Messrs. J. P. Corry & Co., Ltd., Prince’s Dock, Belfast. Messrs. Corry have a reputation as makers of good doors, built up on half a century of work. Their joinery works are equipped with the most modern machinery, and all the timber used is selected and specially treated to prevent warping, &c., after the doors have been fitted. The firm are in a position to carry out special work to architects’ own designs.


“MAFTEX,” a “thermal-insulating” board which has structural strength, was used extensively for the lining of walls and ceiling. This board has wonderful insulation, sound deadening and acoustical correction properties, and offers to the architect, builder and owner some very definite advantages. “Maftext” is thoroughly impregnated with a waterproofing material which makes it extremely resistant to moisture. It is an excellent plaster base and is rot and vermin proof. Full particulars can be obtained from the sole agents, Messrs. Lytle & Pollock, Ltd., timber merchants, Duncrue Street, Belfast.


The glazed faience used in the front elevation was manufactured and supplied by Hathernware, Ltd., of Loughborough, whose Irish agent is Mr. Harry Peyton, of 12, High Street, Belfast. Faience is a very suitable material for cinemas and theatres, since a good quality material preserves its clean and bright appearance almost indefinitely. Hathernware faience is of the highest grade, and it has been extensively used in Northern Ireland.


Messrs. Johnson & Co., the well-known firm of heating engineers, whose works and offices are at 35, Ravenhill Road, Belfast, have established something of a record in this job, which is the eighth amusement house in Belfast in which they have installed heating plant. They have equipped many provincial theatres as well. Among the eight is the Majestic, the other big cinema of the Union Co., now under construction on the Lisburn Road. As in most of the others, the Strand Cinema is heated by the plenum system, which permits of efficient air conditioning, and assures a supply of fresh air at the right temperature from the cinema opens till it closes. This is no small matter when the programmes are continuous, and the heating and ventilating engineer has played his part in making the modern cinema popular with the public. At the Strand, as in all their other jobs, Messrs. Johnson’s contract has been completed in a perfectly satisfactory manner.


Mention has already been made of the rustic brick which are seen to such advantage in the exterior walls. These bricks, which are of the best quality, were supplied by the Pilot Supply Co., of 119, Corporation Street, Belfast, a firm of which Mr James Dowling is proprietor. The Pilot Supply Co., which carries a large stock of builders’ requisites, also received an order for the plaster and B.P. insulating board required for the cinema.


The decorative work was carried out by Messrs. Molto & Egan, of London, in high class style. The decoration, to which reference has already been made, is unusual, but it is in excellent taste and gives a restful effect. Messrs. Molto & Egan have a big reputation in decorative work, and they have carried out a very large number of important contracts throughout England.


The electrical installation was carried out by Lewers, Carroll & Co., Ltd., who are specialists in cinema work. The auditorium lighting is a combination of indirect and semi-indirect systems, the most up-to-date method in use, and it has been designed in harmony with the decoration scheme. Dimmer controls permit of any desired intensity of light in the auditorium. The stage draperies are electrically controlled and can be illuminated in any colour or combination of colours, by the operation of manual controls. The extent of the installation can be realised from the fact that there are over 1,500 lighting points along, as well as all the power necessary in running a cinema of this kind. There is an emergency lighting system with storage batteries, and this is the first cinema in Northern Ireland equipped with a safety-light device.


Messrs. W. F. Clokey & Co., Ltd., 11, King Street, Belfast, were the glazing contractors, and they also supplied the mirrors, decorative glass, &c.

bottom of page