Memories of the Royalty
Steve Gibbons from the Steve Gibbons Band describes growing up in Harborne and going to the Royalty
“It was like walking into another life. It was a fantasy land”
When I was 5 years old, I started going to the Royalty, joining the children’s club, the ABC Minors and wearing the club badge of an upside-down red, blue and white triangle. We met on Saturday mornings and would sing the club song, ‘We are the boys and girls well-known as the minors of the ABC, on Saturday we line up to see the films we like and shout aloud with glee’.
Films had 3 classifications. U for children, A which children could attend with an adult and X-rated only for adults. As kids we would wait outside for adults to come and then say to them “will you take me in?” They usually agreed and we’d then give the adult our money, a shilling or one and six, so they could pay for us and we’d pretend to be related. So, we got into lots of ‘A’ films and sometimes even Xs!
I remember seeing films including Rebel without a cause with James Dean which had a profound effect on me. I was 16 and rock and roll was a kind of rebellion. The world was changing, and youth were becoming important in every aspect influencing fashion and haircuts. I also loved The Smallest show in the world with Bill Travers and Peter Sellers, all the Elvis films, Blackboard Jungle and Rock around the Clock. When Gone with the Wind was shown there was a huge poster outside the Royalty, so big it was like the sail of a ship, but there was a storm which brought it down. This was in the local newspapers.
They also had sporting events and I saw Randy Turpin (who came from Leamington) fight Sugar Ray Robinson to become world champion.
The newsreels were better than TV, as the picture was better and the presentation more exciting. I saw Donald Campbell at the Royalty and went with my school class from Station Road to see the conquest of Everest, as a special treat for 3rd and 4th years.
The Royalty was posh with maroon seats that felt like velvet. Usherettes who wore blue and gold uniforms sold nuts and ice-creams. Sometimes the usherettes had a bit of trouble with drunks, but it was handy that the police station was right opposite. The cinema could hold about 400. There was a balcony upstairs which was cheaper.
It was open 7 days a week. We would take sandwiches and treat it as a day out. You could watch films over and over as they were on a loop. The usherettes would turn a blind eye to kids staying in there, as long as they were not playing up. It was always full at weekends and if films with Elvis and James Dean were showing.
“It was really beautiful. The grandeur of it, you knew you were in an important place”
“I felt shattered when I saw what had happened with the fire. I would love to see it saved”
My memories of the Royalty Cinema
1930 – I was 13 years old and I went to the opening night. If my memory serves me correctly the main picture was “Romance” with Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy
On the ground floor, the tickets were 9 pence and 1 shilling. In the balcony the tickets were 1 shilling and 3 pence or 1 shilling and sixpence.
5 years later, when I met my young man, who became my husband we used to go twice a week until the war came. After the war was over, in 1946 we went again to the Royalty twice a week.
It was a shame when it closed and became a bingo hall. And I’ve not been since.
I always thought that the Royalty was one of the best cinemas and the seats were very comfortable.
I hope my memories are of interest to you.