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The Rushden Echo and Argus, 4th November 1955, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Vote to settle dispute over Sunday films

Those who oppose Sunday cinema performances and those who want them in the town are sharpening their verbal knives in readiness for a public debate at Rushden next Thursday. Churches are urging their members to speak out. And on the other side more than 100 people have already declared themselves in favour of Sunday entertainment.

The meeting at which a public vote will be taken has been called by Rushden Urban Council and will open at the Alfred Street schools at 7.30 p.m. It is the prescribed sequel to the council’s resolution of October 12 asking parliament to facilitate the licensing of Sunday shows in the town.

Only local government electors may attend. They will have to be checked in as such, and, as this will take time, it is urged that people should arrive for the meeting as early as possible.

Mrs. Alice Muxlow will preside as chairman of the council, and the resolution from which the meeting arises will be read and form the basis of debate.


At the end of the meeting those present will be asked to show whether they approve or disapprove, and the decision will be final, unless within seven days a minimum of electors, 100, sign a petition demanding a public poll.

In the meantime some of the churches are organising resistance to Sunday cinema opening.

The November magazine of St. Mary’s Church states, “the rector would urge all St. Mary’s members to keep that evening free and to come along and vote against this proposition …. let it not be that the Christian principle of one day a week as Holy be lost because you did not come to vote.”

In “Rushden Baptist,” the Rev. A. S. Arnold writes: “It is important that good numbers of our people should be present to vote on this issue and testify to the way they value the Lord’s Day.”

In large lettering outside the Independent Wesleyan Church is the notice: “What to do on Sunday evening? The Church has more to offer than the cinema! Jesus Christ offers you lasting pleasure.”

On Screen

The meeting will also be advertised at the Royal cinema, from which the original request for a Sunday opening powers was made. A notice will appear on the screen next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and Mr. Norman Kimber, manager of the cinema, explains: I have not got a pulpit, so I am announcing it this way.”

And in view of the speed with which a petition might have to be organised after the meeting, Mr. Kimber is already preparing one. It has been displayed in the cinema foyer during the last week, and several sheets are completely filled with signatures – said to number more than 4,000.

Should a public poll be claimed – and it could be demanded by either side – it would have to take place within 17 days of the receipt of the petition. A poll is possible, therefore, before November is out, and would not be later than the early days of December.

It would follow the lines of a local government election, with polling stations in all wards, but instead of voting for candidates the electors would simply put their cross for or against Sunday cinemas.

Footnote: For the Ritz and the Palace cinemas Mr. W. Hewitt yesterday said that they were “not interested.”

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 25th November 1955, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Voting tomorrow on Sunday films

It’s blue for Sunday cinema opening and red against it. These are the colours in which rival parties have stated their views on the Rushden controversy. There will be no politics in tomorrow’s polling, but it’s a keen fight just the same.

Chief propagandists in this unique election are the Royal Theatre on one side and the Protestant churches on the other. They have sent their pamphlets to every house.

The churches in red, supply a specimen ballot paper with a bold cross marked in the “against” column.

The pamphlet concludes with points for Christians to consider and an invitation to attend the churches.

Plenty of Help

Volunteers from each church have done the distribution. The Rev. A. S. Arnold, of Park Road Baptist Church, affirms that “any amount” of help was available.

Overleaf they asked why High Street is more crowded on Saturday evenings – when cinemas are open – than on Sundays.

They report Sunday hooliganism at a Middlesex cinema. They ask why, at the town meeting, advocates of Sunday shows seemed to want them for other people but not for themselves.

The Royal Theatre management, who seek a Sunday licence, ask – in blue – for tolerance.

“Our application,” they say, “was initiated because of public demand ….. We claim cinemagoers are God-fearing people and Sunday opening of cinemas is not contrary to the practice of Christianity, particularly with the background of radio and television …. Religious bodies endorse Sunday radio and television by its use.”

Other points are that the cinema consulted its staff in the first instance and that Sunday opening is subject to large charity payments.

The cinema offers “information and transport” and hammers the slogan, “It’s Now or Never.”

Where to Vote

Polling arrangements made by the clerk to the urban council (Mr. A. G. Crowdy), resemble those for a municipal election. In the absence of candidates and political organisations electors will not be notified regarding poling stations and their number on the register. They are simply asked to attend the stations where they voted (or could have voted) at the last three elections in the town.

Voting centres will be set up as follows:-

South Ward: South End School and Newton Road School.

East Ward: Newton Road School and Queen Street School.

North Ward: North End School, Tennyson Road School, St. Peter’s Church Hall.

West Ward: Tennyson Road School, St. Peter’s Church Hall.

There are 12,063 electors. In the last election of councillors about 57 per cent went to the poll.

Tomorrow’s polling period is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Counting of votes will take place immediately after the polling, and the result will be declared at the Council Building – probably not later than 9.30 p.m.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 20th January 1956, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Sunday audience was ‘like a church congregation’

“Like a church congregation.” That is how Mr. N. Kimber, manager, describes his first Sunday audience at Rushden Royal Theatre. He had heard from other districts that Sunday audiences were inclined to be noisy, but his was one of the best ever, he told us.

Mr. W. R. Hewitt, manager of the Ritz, thought his audience “a fairly typical Sunday one – all young people mainly boys and quite well behaved.”

Churches reported “no difference in evening service attendances.”

Rushden took its first day of Sunday cinemas very calmly. At first it looked as though what had begun with a town’s meeting, great arguments and eventually a public poll, might end in a whimper.

The Royal Theatre (whose manager was the first person to ask for a licence), and the Ritz both opened their doors at 5.15 p.m. preparatory to showing a programme that lasted till 9.25 with a main feature being shown twice.

the queue
The queue just after opening

Just past five o’clock there were about ten men and boys waiting outside the Royal, and a young couple and some youths outside the Ritz. When the doors of the Royal opened the stragglers outside had formed themselves into the semblance of a queue in which men outnumbered women by about five to one. However, between five-thirty and six, there was a steady stream of people quietly buying their tickets at the box office.

No excitement. No Noise.

Over half the people were “out of towners” in their early twenties from Finedon, Yeldon, Newton Bromshold, Raunds, Sharnbrook, Irchester, Irthlingborough, Melchbourne, Addington. Many were confirmed Sunday cinemagoers and usually had to go into Wellingborough or Bedford. Now “it was much easier,” and they would be coming to Rushden regularly, they said.

the first to buy tickets

First three in the queue at the Royal Theatre for Rushden’s first Sunday cinemas. Handing over his ticket to usherette Betty Harrison is Mr E Richwood, of Rushden, and behind him are Lionel Gibbs, Stanwick, and Ron Wilmott, Raunds. Man with the welcoming smile is Mr N Kimber, manager of the Royal, who was responsible for the first move in getting Sunday cinemas for the town.

‘Churches Have Nothing to Offer’

A middle-aged man remarked as the queue thickened: “You would not get them going into church like this. The churches today have nothing to offer – at least not to 80 per cent of the people.”

Nearly half those attending had come from Rushden and Higham Ferrers and were middle-aged or young couples. The Rushden people were mostly those who had voted for Sunday cinemas and had come along to back their votes up and see what was offered. Others were glad to find an alternative Sunday amusement to TV.

Another middle-aged man said: “The pubs and the clubs don’t open till seven, and when you have been working all the week there’s not much relaxation or fun in going to church.

Most of the young Sunday “regulars” – nearly all male from out of Rushden – went on Sunday because they did not have time during the week. Noticeably absent were the Americans, who generally make up a large part of the weekly audience in Rushden. Those few who did attend were young couples who lived in or near Rushden.

At the Ritz, those going in were entertained, while they waited, by the Rushden Salvation Army Band, which regularly holds its open-air meeting there on Sunday evenings – “and shall continue to do so.” said Senior Captain H. Davies.

Attendance Was ‘Satisfactory’

Among the patrons was an immaculate Teddy Boy.

Mr. Hewitt would not disclose attendance figures. He said they were satisfactory, but as he expected, “it was not a full house.”

At the Royal, 847 people paid to go in and there were no “halves.” Average weekday attendances are 500-600. Said Mr. Kimber: “I am very pleased it was much better than I had anticipated.”

Usherette Betty Harrison, of Rushden, asked how she liked working on Sundays, said: “I’ve always been to a cinema in Bedford, anyway. With fares, that cost me ten shillings, so this suits me.”

The Royal had a very even distribution of seats sold; at the Ritz it was the 2s 2d seats that were the favourites.

The Rev. A. Stuart Arnold, minister of the Park Road Baptist Church, said he had a good congregation with a lot of young people.

The Methodist minister, the Rev. D. Holwell, made a similar report. He thought that the church activities and regular organisations, such as the Youth Circle, would not be affected at all.

Both agreed that probably the type of person who would go to Sunday cinema would not be a churchgoer in the first place.

See also Trades Council for earlier discussions

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