The Grand Cinema

Under Construction

The Grand will be part of  The 1950s Town, giving people a chance to experience a trip to the pictures during this “golden age” of cinema.

The cinema, from Ryhope, in Sunderland, will be recreated and brought to life, screening films, period newsreels and adverts.

The Grand was hugely popular in its heyday in the 1950s, often selling out its seats.

The main auditorium will include a stage, screen, pit benches and the more expensive upholstered seats. Visitors will be able to take a look behind the scenes at the projection room and learn about the skilled role of the projectionist.

The Grand at Beamish will have both day and evening offers, with options of feature length films at set times as well as showing archive footage, shorts and news during the day.

The Grand originally closed in the 1960s and later became a bingo hall. It was donated to the museum by Angela and Gary Hepple.

In 2020, The Grand was dismantled and any re-usable parts brought to Beamish to be incorporated into The 1950s Town cinema. Smaller items had already been removed from the building such as bits of paperwork and some unique finds such as a golden syrup tin that had been fashioned into a light shade in the 1930s or 40s. The cinema had a full paint survey carried out so we know exactly what colours the interior had been painted at every stage of its long and colourful history.

The building underwent a full architectural survey to assess which materials were suitable for salvage and re-use and to record any that could not be saved. The moulded plasterwork in the main auditorium could not be collected because it would have crumbled upon removal. Instead the mouldings have been recorded and copies will be sourced for the cinema at Beamish.

The two huge stained glass windows that were positioned either side of the cinema screen were carefully removed and will be incorporated into the rebuild. The cinema building was not new in the 1950s, it first opened in 1913 and the rebuild will reflect this.

From the front of the building, the stays used to hold up the canopy and the Western Electric Sound lettering have also been preserved. Western Electric Sound was one of the two best cinema sound systems around at the time so it was a feature well worth advertising. As much original material will be incorporated in to the rebuild as possible.

Cinema seats have been donated to the museum from the former Palladium Cinema in Claypath, Durham. Beamish also collected a pair of projectors from Durham University.

Beamish buffs and film fanatics alike can sponsor an individual seat within the main auditorium of our recreation of The Grand, supporting the museum. By sponsoring a seat in our recreation of The Grand from Ryhope, you will help the museum generate funds to complete the build and fit out of our cinema.

Beamish is keen to hear people’s memories of the cinema in Ryhope and would love to speak to anyone who used to work there.

Among the people involved in the project is Bill Mather, who was born in Ryhope and was a trainee projectionist at the cinema between 1950 and 1955.

He describes The Grand as a “Palace of Dreams” and used to visit from the age of five or six, before becoming a trainee projectionist from 10 years old.

Bill, who was born in 1940, shared his memories of the cinema in the 1950s with Beamish’s design team, recalling what it looked like inside and the appearance and location of features and objects.

Many Ryhope residents have shared with us fond memories of the building as a place where they did their courting or got up to mischief sneaking in with their friends or dropping ice creams over the circle balcony!

Anyone with memories or photos of The Grand or 1950s Ryhope is asked to contact Connor Emerson, Remaking Beamish Engagement Development Officer, email: or phone 0191 370 4052.