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In the days before television, or even radio, evening entertainment in industrial Tyneside would have consisted mostly of live performances at an impressive array of venues. Then, during the 1890's, the pioneering work of Edison, the Lumiere Brothers, and others, added a new dimension - the cinema. The novelty of this new form of entertainment overcame its technical limitations, and the whimsical appeal of such early classics as "Le Voyage dans la Lune" (1902) and "The Great Train Robbery" (1903) made it highly popular. Enterprising individuals were quick to exploit its money-making potential, and small cinemas opened in many towns. One of the first was the "Jarrow Bioscope Theatre", which opened in December 1907 in the former Salvation Army Hall in Grange Road. On 7th September 1908 the "Kino" opened, with a very broad repertoire, to judge by the advertisement reproduced below. This first Kino must have been a success, for by 1910 an impressive new theatre was opened on the site. This catered not only for movies, but lectures, various live performances, and, importantly, as a venue for boxing matches, which were extremely well-attended. In later years the building became known as the Regal, and continued as a cinema for many years.
The entrepreneur behind the building of the Kino was Dixon Scott. He was born at Rosehill in 1884, the son of a blacksmith, and his early career had something of an Indiana Jones flavour, working in the oil fields in Batum, Russia, while still in his teens. On his return to England he spent some time with the Hexham Electric Supply Company, and then went into the cinema business with the acquisition of two picture halls in Prudhoe. The Kino in Jarrow was the first cinema on Tyneside to be built as a cinema, and he also built the Pavilion in South Shields, the Princes in North Shields, and the Haymarket and News Theatre1 in Newcastle. He was a literary man, and wrote several books including a novel, "Zarya" which records his impressions of Russia2. He frequently travelled abroad for the benefit of his health, which was not good, and it was during one of these trips that he died in Cairo on 12th February, 1939.
Thanks to Norman Dunn we have a record of the opening of this new Kino in the form of a commemorative booklet, and he has kindly allowed me to reproduce this booklet here for the benefit of a wider audience. He received the booklet from Rhoda Ellis (nee McIntyre) and my thanks are due to her also for preserving this fascinating relic of Jarrow's past. Those of you who have not yet visited Norman's impressive photoarchive of old Hebburn and Jarrow pictures, including one of the Regal, are recommended to do so - a link is provided at the bottom of this page.
1. The Scott family's association with the cinema continues today; Dixon's great-nephew Ridley Scott directed the films Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator among others, and Ridley's younger brother Tony has also directed a number of successful films including Beverley Hills Cop II. Together they have directed TV series such as Numbers.
2. "Zarya. A Tale of the Caucasus" published by John Long, London, 1911.
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