Early 1920s. The Rialto Cinema in the Corn Exchange. No longer a farmers’ dealing centre it became Faringdon’s first cinema with the best seats in the house costing 3d (just over 1p). The auctioneer’s gallery was commonly called ‘the cuddly corner’ as it was frequented by the young couples, these seats cost 6d (2.5p). The gallery also held the store of rat-infested grain sacks, much to the detriment of any budding romance. Saturday morning sessions were also held at the cinema when youngsters could get in, to see such films as the Pearl White thrillers, for the price of 2d.
In 1935 a new building for the cinema was erected to replace barns and old farm cottages directly opposite on Gloucester Street between The Volunteer Public House and Gloucester House. It was built by Merle Elliott, one of the sons of D.J. Elliott & Sons, Steam Saw Mills, Butts Road, who later emigrated to Canada. The building was opened by Lord Berners who made probably the longest speech of his career.
“For several years now I have been a regular patron of the old cinema in the Corn Exchange, and much as we have appreciated the quaint and somewhat ecclesiastical atmosphere, there is no doubt that we now have a hall worth of the noble town of Faringdon”
The first film shown was ‘Life of the Bengal Lancers’. There was such a crush that an usherette fainted and had to be carried out over the heads of the crowd.
Films were shown continuous from 6pm to 11pm daily and you could stay as long as you liked. Ticket prices: 8d, 1s2d, 1s6d and 1s10d (~9p).
Lewis Boffin later became a police constable in Palestine after the war. Then he worked in his father Thomas’s butchers shop in Faringdon, first next to the White Hart pub on Gravel Walk and then from 1977 on London Street. He passed away on 27th May 2018, aged 91 years.
A new owner took over in 1948 and it was re-named the Regent Cinema.
1950s. In front of the cinema in Gloucester Street. Jean Purbrick with Eric Morbey who worked at the Regent Petrol Depot in the railway station yard as a driver’s mate. He had been a delivery boy at Carter’s when he was a schoolboy.
The cinema closed in 1969 and became the Regent Bingo Hall until 1981.
In 1984 (photo above), it was demolished and replaced by the housing development known as Regent Mews, now houses 4-6 Gloucester Street.
Nearly 30 years later, in 2011, cinema returned to the Corn Exchange under the same name and now shows films on a regular basis for all ages, including Friday evenings, Wednesday matinee showings and family films in the school holidays.
Researched by Ian Lee, November 2019.