The Ritz Cinema

Chapel Street

The Ritz in the early 60s

The Ritz Cinema in Chapel Street opened it’s doors in February 1938 and remained the centre of entertainment in Billericay until 1971. The onslaught of television had dwindled audiences to a level where the building was not sustainable as a Cinema and so like many of the cinemas in nearby towns it became a Bingo Hall. As the popularity of Bingo waned the building transformed itself again into a Snooker Hall, but the writing was on the wall. Planning applications were put in for redevelopment, first of all for an office block and later for residential flats.

Sadly the building was pulled down around the turn of the century and a popular rendevous in the town was gone forever.

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  • I guess on this site we are talking about things that happened a long time ago which may sound weird to people today.
    One night when there was a cowboy film on one of the lads pulled out his Webley air pistol and got two shots off at the screen trying to shoot the Indians. The usherettes light suddenly came down the aisle and there were two small holes in the screen. Crazy by todays standards but I do not think anyone thought much of it at the time, all of us had air rifles or pistols in those days.

    By roger whisken (02/12/2019)
  • Yes the Ritz cinema, I think we called it the fleapit, and I remember the firework night incident.
    We used to buy a shilling ticket and show the usherette a two shilling blue stub we used each week to sit in the 2 bobs halfway up. Think I got banned for life a couple of times, probably with John Keeble who has already written about it, but in those days it was the only place to go.Great days and good fun.

    By Roger Whisken (27/11/2019)
  • I used to go here in the early sixties, two bobs on the left was the place to be. In reply to the lady about turned down wellington boots, they were the popular fashion at the time with the teenage blokes. There was a bloke who used to keep an eye out for trouble makers, he used to creep around and you wouldn’t know he was there until his torch came on, we called him “creeper” One night near fireworks night a group took up positions across the entire room and filled the ashtrays up with gunpowder. At a shout of “right now” they were all ignited and a pall of smoke went up across the entire place. The whole row were thrown out. Being underage we were not allowed in to “A” movies unless accompanied by an adult so we would wait outside until an “adult” would come along and ask him to take us in. I can’t see that happening these days. A popular “A” movie then was “Room at the Top”.

    By John Keeble (21/05/2019)
  • I remember going to the Ritz in 1960 with my first date. He turned up in wellies as it was a very wet night. I thought no one would see in the dark. Imagine my horror when he jumped over the front seat to get an ice cream when the lights went on at half time. His turned over wellies were seen by everyone. End of romance.

    By Carol Hughes (17/09/2016)
  • I can remember as a teenager watching many movies at the Ritz, but the thing that sticks in my mine most was that sometimes part way through the movie a couple of birds would fly through the hole in the ceiling and fly around in the cinema no doubt attracted by the light.

    By Alan Prank (28/08/2016)
  • I spent a lot of my youth at the Ritz cinema. Saturday afternoon was 6d a ticket in the late 50s/60s always with a dreadful B movie before the main film. A crowd of us would queue to get in every week and afterwards would go to Goodspeeds to get a bag of chips to eat on the way home.  Often we would play ‘knock down ginger’ as we ran the length of Chapel Street.

    By Jacqueline Brassett (14/09/2015)
  • I only ever made two visits to the Palace Cinema in Billericay. Once in about 1959 with a nurse from the hospital and again, this time with my wife on 1967, to see ‘Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines’.

    By Ian Fuller (23/07/2015)
  • In 1960 we had just moved into our new home. We visited the Ritz cinema in Chapel St., to see Marilyn Munro in ‘Some Like It Hot’.

    By Julia Kiss (22/07/2015)
  • I remember going to see several films at the Ritz during the 1960s. If I remember the prices correctly front two rows were 6d, next 4 rows 1/- (one shilling), the middle of the house was 2/6 and the back rows 4/- . The last film I can remember seeing was the Great Escape starring Steve McQueen, the last film not long before the Cinema closed and by then the rear seat prices had risen to 10/- 

    Billericay cinema was popular because otherwise it was a train trip to Brentwood or Romford or go to Chelmsford or Laindon (later Basildon). In later years just before its closure as a cinema The Ritz was owned by Basildon Council Chairman Bert Phelps who also owned the Radion in Laindon so films tended to go from one cinema to the other The brochure and poster showed what was on at both cinemas for the current week and the following week. The films changed to different one on a Thursday.

    The Ritz also had a car park and in the early days of buses this was used by City Coaches of Wood Green and Brentwood as a layover/terminus for services in Billericay also the mobile surgery of PDSA (Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals) would come to the Ritz car park once a week.

    The Cinema became a Bingo hall when it was acquired by Brentwood Football Club.

    By Trevor Savage (08/05/2014)

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