The cinema was open every day of the week except Wednesday’s and even showed films for children on Saturdays. The building survived the Second World War and even the 1953 floods which ravished Canvey and the south-east. Beyond the Point was able to get a tour of the building, which included taking a look at where many people would have sat to watch films and also the old projector room, which is now used for storage. Looking through the original hole in our photo below, you can see the newer and current ceiling at the bottom which is hiding the old cinema drape curtains at the far end and retro ceiling from the eyes of the bingo players. (Click on the images to view them larger.)
Posting her account on the Canvey Community Archive, Joyce Humphrey posted her memories of working at the cinema, aged 13.
As an usherette, one of my duties was to sell ice-cream in the intervals. During the Saturday afternoon children’s shows it was mayhem! This was due to the shortage of Ice Cream and Sweets during the war. Those dear children used to pull on the straps that hung from my ice cream tray; I was almost strangled at times! So I resorted to carrying a ruler on my tray and to bring in down on those persistent knuckles! (not very ‘PC’ these days!)
When I progressed to a projectionist at the cinema I often had to climb onto the flat roof, to put out incendiary bombs then hurry back in time to change the reel of the film so the show could continue (each reel took 20 minutes to run.)
When the air raid warning sounded, I had to put a slide up onto the screen, telling the patrons “An air raid is in progress” and to tell them that if they wished to leave, to do so calmly and quietly, but the film would continue as usual. Not many people decided to leave (no doubt not wishing to face the shrapnel and bombs falling outside!)
Terry Buchanan also posted his memories on the archive and remembers being in there when it was announced that the war was over..
Just along from the Haystack was the cinema, and it was here that most of war news was exchanged. It was in this cinema that I first heard that the war had finished. The Chinese whisper became a shout: ‘It’s over, it’s over’. A jubilant audience flooded out onto the high street to join ecstatic promenade, whilst the celluloid Hollywood lovers were still locked in their black and white embrace, completely detached by the flickering light of the projector bulb from momentous point in history.
In 1976 the last film was shown before the building was converted into a social club, known as the ‘Canvey leisure Centre’. The first game of bingo was played at this time and when the building was sold in 1998 the current owners, Magestic Bingo Clubs, bought the site.