Above: Horbury Cinema in School Lane before it was demolished in the late 1990s. Picture courtesy of Anthony Oldroyd.
This Horbury Cinema replaced an earlier Horbury Cinema which was located in the still existing Co-operative Hall on High Street. The new Horbury Cinema was built and opened in 1930. It presented occasional variety performances on its stage and was equipped with a British Acoustic(BA) sound system. It was closed in July 1967, when the manager blamed the closure on rowdy teenagers. It was converted into a bingo club for a short time, then stood empty for several years before being converted into a cafe and Leisure centre for young people in 1992. It was demolished several years later.
Co-operative society halls had been regular venues for film shows, hired to showmen from about the turn of the 20th century. The Movement's first permanent cinemas began to appear from about 1915, with examples in the North East at Meadowfields (1915) and Birtley (1916). These were both conversions of existing premises, and the Movement's first purpose-built cinema was claimed to be the Co-operative Cinema of the Horbury Society. The Horbury Co-op Hall had been let for silent films from 1915, with the society taking it over in 1927 and running the cinema itself.
It did so well that a new cinema was planned when it became necessary to convert to sound. The experience of the Co-operative cinema at Horbury was indicative of the use and value of a cinema to a local Co-operative society. In 1934, the Horbury cinema seated 520 and achieved a weekly attendance of 2,500 out of a membership of 2,700 and a local community of 8,000. The community spirit of the society was evident when tax relief afforded by the 1936 budget was generously passed on to patrons in the form of reduced ticket prices. In addition, pensioners of the society were invited to enjoy two free evening shows a week in their own cinema as guests of their fellow members. As the only provider of cinema entertainment in the district, the society valued its cinema for the benefit it brought in terms of Co-operative publicity and propaganda.1
1. "The British Consumer Co-operative Movement and film: 1890s - 1960s" by Alan George Burton, Manchester University Press 2005.