Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: January 04, 2019
Webpage updated: January 04, 2019




Mr Frank Pearce was a draper at 13 and 14 Cornwall Street, adjacent to the Plymouth Market complex. He had obviously been enthused by the cinematograph because in April 1920 he submitted plans for the conversion of his shop into a cinema. The Council's officials inspected the premises and granted a licence on February 7th 1921.  It was the only premises in the Three Towns to be known as a 'Kinema'.

At 3pm on Thursday February 10th 1921 the Mayor of Plymouth, Mr W S Knight, opened the Criterion Kinema.

Advertising itself as 'The Smart Set Cinema', the initial programme, nearly three hours long,  comprised "The Temperamental Wife" featuring Constance Talmadge followed by the more serious "The Polar Star".

The proceeds of the first two performances were handed over to the Mayor's Unemployment Fund.  In his opening address, the Mayor reminded the audience that 'the unemployed ..... would continue to need public assistance until the undetermined future brought us days of prosperity again'. He continued, 'Coming to me of late have been men who, having striven as long as possible to keep off the Fund, have been absolutely driven to my parlour to admit their need for help for their families. I remember many of these men as holding important positions and living comfortably in the past'.  The prices of admission ranged from 9d to 2s 3d.

The Criterion was converted for "talkies" and reopened on Tuesday July 19th 1932 with Jeanette MacDonald starring in "The Lottery Bride".

At 11am on Sunday September 3rd 1939 came the announcement that Britain had declared war on Germany.  According to the adverts in the local press, the Criterion was showing Columbia's "You Can't Take it with You" starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore and James Stewart.   The feature film for the following week's film would be "Christine".

The blitzed Criterion Kinema in Cornwall Street, Plymouth, circa 1944-45.
Western Morning News Company Limited.

No further cinema adverts appeared in newspapers until the following Saturday, September 9th 1939.  The 600-seat Criterion was not included.  It is known that Weaver to Wearer, the tailoring chain, were to occupy the building (see the photograph above of the blitzed premises) but it is believed they never opened.