The Electric Theatre
DescriptionOpened on 10th March 1913, Wokingham's first public cinema was opened at 10 Broad Street (now Nationwide) and named "The Electric Theatre".
It was opened by the Mayor, Councillor W. T. Martin and stood on the site of the premises of Stevens Reuben basket makers.
It experienced the change in films from silent to sound and black and white to colour.
Affectionately known as "the flea pit", it was popular with youngsters in the town and, remarkably competed with the newer Ritz Cinema in Easthampstead Road.
A look along the side of the building shows the large expanse of brickwork which made up the bulky theatre.
The frontage has a Dutch style gable and substantial first floor windows. It should be noted that the building to the right of it, while similar in style, was not part of the cinema and was actually built some years later, although complementing its neighbour architecturally.
Admission to the front rows was three pence, middle rows, sixpence and back rows one shilling and threepence.
The walls of the auditorium were decorated with jungle scenes and monkeys painted by Dick Giles a local signwriter. During the years when one could reserve a seat, some cinemagoers would ask for seats "beside the monkeys".
Wokingham Picture Palace Ltd. went into liquidation in September 1932 and was then owned by D.W. & R.T. Hayward and was renamed the Electric Theatre.
The cinema, eventually known as "The Savoy", closed down in 1951, although its competitor "The Ritz" survived into the 1970s.
The last film to be screened on 6th January was "The Champion".
The building was sold and became the premises of Courtney Reed Ltd, house furnishers.
Because of its contribution to Wokingham’s heritage, this building is part of the Wokingham Society’s Blue Plaque Trail. A leaflet giving details of all of the buildings on the Trail can be obtained from the Wokingham Town Hall Information Centre and Wokingham Library. An electronic version is available from www.wokinghamsociety.org.uk The Trail is also available on a downloadable App called Wokingham Town History.
SourceWokingham Society’s Blue Plaque Trail
Miss Baker's School and other Wokingham Memories by Jim Bell
“The Electric Theatre,” Wokingham's Virtual Museum, accessed January 23, 2021, https://www.wokingham-tc.gov.uk/museum/document/WTH0312.