MANY people bought their first television in 1953 especially to watch the Coronation.
The knock-on effect was that they stopped their twice-weekly trips to the cinema. A family night at home around the TV became the norm.
Americans already had the TV habit and Hollywood film studios responded to falling audience numbers by introducing movies made for a giant panoramic process – CinemaScope. Films became bigger, if not better.
Dunstable’s Union Cinema caught up with the times in 1955 when it proudly showed off its huge new screen. Dunstable people were then able to see, in the proper format, films like The Student Prince, with Edmond Purdom’s voice dubbed by Mario Lanza, and The Black Shield Of Falworth, with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
The Union’s manager Len Crate is seen, right, in 1955 with a visitor, both dwarfed by the new screen. The other photo shows Mr Crate with Dunstable’s Mayor, Ald W.H. Robinson, and a CinemaScope projector.
The Union, in High Street North, opened on September 27, 1937, with the film Bulldog Drummond At Bay and special on-screen messages of congratulation from Jessie Matthews, Jack Buchanan, Maureen O’Sullivan, Shirley Temple, Gracie Fields and Clark Gable.
CinemaScope provided only a temporary reprieve and the building, by then known as the ABC, pictured inset above, eventually became the Star bingo club.
Bingo had started for just three days a week in January 1969, with films still being shown, but the game became by far the biggest attraction and film shows ceased in February 1973.
When bingo fell from favour the old Union was converted into a disco club called Cubes.
After this closed the building was rescued by the Dunstable Community Church which has lovingly restored the beautiful interior, praised in 1937 for its tasteful opulence, to its former glory.
The church makes the premises available as a community centre, and hosted Dunstable council’s Mayor-making ceremony earlier this year.
> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society