Picture house licence conditions challenged

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1914 court

At the Scarborough Police Court today, Mr J Whitfield made application on behalf of the People’s Palace and Aquarium, for the renewal of the cinematograph licence.

The magistrates on the bench were the Mayor (Mr CC Graham, in the chair), Aldermen Whittaker, Ascough, and Rowntree, Mr G Rowntree, Mr J Sinfield, Mr J Hall, and Mr EH Gawne.

In making the application Mr Whitfield stated that on March 3rd the application was granted subject to certain conditions, the effect of which he was afraid the magistrates who imposed them hardly realised. The manager of the Aquarium, Mr Kitchingham, felt unable to accept the cinematograph licence with those conditions attached. Pictures had been shown at the Aquarium for the past 16 years. Indeed he (Mr Whitfield) believed that pictures had been shown at the Aquarium perhaps longer than at any other place in the town without a single complaint. There was no reason why those conditions should be imposed, which would make it impossible for pictures to be shown.

The condition he was referring to was that the bar should be closed for the sale of drink during the time pictures were being shown. During the summer months, there was twelve hours continuous entertainment which practically meant that if these conditions were imposed, the bar would be practically closed day by day during the all important times. It would mean that a licence would not be of very much value. His client could not afford to do away with these pictures. In wet weather the Aquarium filled up very early in the morning. At about nine to ten o’clock the artistes were not there, and during rainy weather the excursionists flock into the Aquarium. Therefore it was necessary in the interests of them, and for the good of Scarborough, that something of interest should be provided. This was one of the main reasons for which pictures were essential. It was desirable in the interests of those who come on a wet day that they should be entertained, and not made miserable during their visit to Scarborough. If excursionists come into Scarborough on a wet day there were two places for them, the Aquarium and the public house.

It was better – far better in their interests and for the Aquarium, that a rational and reasonable amusement should be provided for them. If they had to dispense with pictures it would mean three extra artistes, or sets of artistes during the summer months to fill up the time at present occupied by pictures. In winter months, it would mean two extra artistes. In the summer and winter the cost of pictures was £6 10s per week, which provided both the film and operator. The difference in this case would mean about £702 for the year.

The bar and a billiard room with two tables and both of these were kept busy. There was a reading-room, at which daily papers and others were taken. There was a large quantity of meals supplied at the Aquarium bar. Certain choir parties, and other parties got one or more meals at the Aquarium bar. There was a good quantity of provisions sold. He mentioned in this order to show the difference between the Aquarium bar and the public house.

One place of amusement had also a similar licence. He was referring to the Spa. There was, perhaps, no reason why the licence should be refused for the Spa. The bar at the Aquarium was a considerably greater distance from the theatre than public houses are to certain other picture houses in Scarborough. In the case of Londesborough the bar is quite adjacent to the auditorium. From the farthest point in the Aquarium gallery there was a distance of over a hundred yards to the bar.

Mr Kitchingham, the manager of the Aquarium, in giving evidence, estimated the difference in securing artistes in place of pictures at about £800. He had known two or three thousand in the Aquarium as early as ten o’clock in the morning.

The magistrates retired, and upon returning granted the licence the same as before up to April 5th next. The Chairman stated that the door leading from the theatre to the passage should not be used except in the case of emergency, and it should be fitted with bolts on the theatre side.