The history of the Forum Cinema from 1937 to 2014

The Forum Cinema - 1930s

The Forum – 1930s

The Forum Cinema opened its doors to the public for the first time on 23rd August 1937.
Over the previous twelve months it had been built on the site of the GemPalace – the old cinema which had stood on the same site, on the edge of the Market Place since 1910.

The Forum was owned by the Hexham Entertainment Company from the time it opened until its closure in 1974. The Hexham Entertainment Company under the management of Tom Scott, father and son, also owned and operated the Queen’s Hall Theatre for much of its history.

Old copies of the Tynedale Tatler dating back to 1922 detail the programmes of both these venues, including a range of amateur dramatics in both places and of course the events taking place in the Queen’s Hall Ballroom. The Hexham Entertainment Company also opened a cinema in Corbridge – the Prince’s Cinema-and there were needless to say cinemas in Haltwhistle, Prudhoe, Blaydon and elsewhere in Tynedale throughout the early and mid 20th Century.

The Forum continued to operate throughout the war and for many years afterwards however with the widespread ownership of television by the 1960’s cinemas everywhere were struggling and it was clearly with great regret that the Forum, the last of the Hexham Entertainment Company’s cinemas was closed down in 1974, after attempts to keep it going by introducing additional attractions such as wrestling had failed.

In 1979, after having served as temporary accommodation for the Midland Bank, the Forum was bought by Tayman Leisure who developed the lower part of the building as a Bingo Hall which opened its doors on June 24th 1979. Turning their attention then to the auditorium for the cinema the old circle was extended and a wall was built up from behind the screen to the existing ceiling thus retaining much of the character of the original cinema, including the house lights on the gold plaster columns.

The Forum reopened 1982 after a break of only 8 years. In the late 1990’s it was sold to JD Wetherspoon and after a short period when it was closed for some refurbishment it continued to operate as a cinema under a number of different leaseholders until the business was sold by Norman Brownell to the Hexham Community Partnership in February 2007 with funding support from Tynedale Council and One NorthEast via the Northumberland Strategic Partnership.

Having secured a 21 year lease on the cinema the Hexham Community Partnership is now operating the cinema on a commercial basis, employing a team of staff.  Office accommodation has been developed so the cinema provides a permanent town centre base for the Partnership. All profits generated by the cinema are used for the benefit of the town and surrounding areas.

The first stage of refurbishment in 2008 saw the opening of Scotts Cafe Bar, provision of baby changing facilities, induction loops in the box office and cafe. A new ticketing system was installed allowing online ticket sales.

In 2010 a stair lift was installed to assist those with mobility problems gaining access to the facilities.

2011 – the cinema moves into the digital age with the installation of our brand new Christie 2210 digital projector thanks to funding from members of the local community, One Northeast via the Northumberland Strategic Partnership and the County Councillors’, Ingrid Brook, Derek Kennedy and Terry Robson.

In 2013 further refurbishment was undertaken with redecoration of the auditorium and installation of safety lighting and a wheelchair lift and wheelchair spaces in the auditorium.

The cinema has been retained as a wonderful facility for the town and links are being developed with local schools and other community groups.