The Astoria Cinema, Ware

Almost 100 years since Ware's first cinema

Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

Exterior, 1940s
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies
The lobby, 1971
Photo: Kevin Wheelan
Interior, 1971
Photo: Kevin Wheelan
Photo: Kevin Wheelan
Advert in The Mercury, 1911
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

Ware’s first and only purpose built cinema opened on Boxing Day in 1911.  It was built in just six weeks for William Skipp and was known as Ware Picture Hall.

In 1925, new owners named it Ware Cinema and in 1948 it was altered and modernised.  It was re-named the Astoria for its re-opening in October that year and film stars Jimmy Hanley and his wife, Dinah Sheridan made an appearance.

Charles Ballands started working at the cinema in 1929 as a re-wind boy at 14.  He gradually worked his way up the ranks until he became the manager and owner.   In the late 1950s cinema became less popular so Mr Ballands tried to boost audiences with live musical interludes, including a very early appearance by Cliff Richard.  In the end, part-time bingo was the solution in the 60s and 70s.

After Mr Ballands died in 1975, his family continued to operate the Astoria which was one of the last independently owned cinemas in the country.   Sadly, the Astoria closed for good on 31st March 1979 but continued to be used as a place of entertainment when a nightclub called Beckets opened in September 1979.  After Beckets came Club Nautica, then Sky, and then Mantra, with a bar downstairs called Bille Jeans.

The building was demolished in 2019 and 10 ‘luxury apartments’ have been built on the site, called ‘Astoria Place’.

For more information on the remodelling of the cinema and its reopening as The Astoria see the attached PDF.

This page was added on 18/11/2009.

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  • My Dad, Harry Elson, worked for Charley Ballands during the 50s, 60s and 70s as the projectionist. In fact it’s where he met my Mum Dorothy in 1950, as she was working there as the usherette. They were married for 69 years until my Dad passed away last September aged 90. I also used to go to Saturday morning cinema, and got a Flake from Big Chief on one of my birthdays!

    By Sharon Evans (02/08/2021)
  • My brother and myself used to go on saturday mornings, the owner or manager was known as Chiefey, you would get called up on the stage if it was your birthday. good memories of the early/mid 60s

    Becketts was great, if you was from Ware, you knew almost everyone in there.

    By martin gilby (19/03/2021)
  • i remember Saturday mornings pictures here in the 1940 s

    By william tillcock (22/11/2020)
  • My sister Sandra used to work as an usherette during the 1970’s in this Cinema.

    By Charles Reed (31/07/2019)
  • I worked here as a Bingo caller back in 1977, two nights per week for pocket money along with two school friends from Fanshawe school.

    I have fond memories of the time I spent there and still have a scar from dropping a large slot machine on my big toe.

    I worked for a lady who’s name I cant remember but she was very fair and generous.

    By John Stock (21/12/2018)