Renshaw Street, Liverpool 1
Opened 5 December 1905
The Central Hall of the Liverpool Methodist Mission was built in 1904-5 to replace premises in Mount Pleasant. It was designed by the architects, Bradshaw and Gass.
The old Central Hall was built in 1790 as a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. In 1889 it was handed over to the Wesleyan Mission and became Central Hall. After the new Central Hall opened it was sold, and on 14 December 1908 it opened as The New Century Picture Hall, one of Liverpool's first cinemas.
The formal opening of the Liverpool Central Hall (Charles Garrett Memorial) in Renshaw Street took place on Tuesday, 5 December 1905. Sir Henry H. Fowler opened the Large Hall and the Lord Mayor was present. On the following Saturday the first Saturday Night Popular Concert took place, and right from the start a film show was included. Admission was only 2d, and the Saturday night concerts were a great success.
The Sun Hall in Kensington was to be the largest venue in Liverpool to show films. It could seat 4500, and it showed films between 1907 and 1910 . The Central Hall which could hold a maximum of about 4000 people was the second largest place to show films in Liverpool.
In the Liverpool Echo, dated 28 October 1922, the mixing of religious services with cinema shows was explained thus by the Reverend T.A. Turney:
"Cinematograph entertainments are given every Saturday night from the first Saturday in October to the last in March. They were designed to introduce "down-and-outers" to the (Methodist) Mission. Our prices of admission are 3d and 5d. We have an organ recital, a hymn, and short prayer, and then a concert, followed by one long picture.
"Though we select our pictures very carefully, we have no difficulty in finding those of the right type. The films include such as "Torn Sails", "All Sorts and Conditions of Men", by Walter Besant, and "Andy Hardy".
"We have very large crowds at the concerts, and also at the Sunday night services. We can seat 2300, but often we are packed so early that I have to begin the service a quarter of an hour before time.
"As I have said, the concerts and services are designed for those whom others might term "undesirables", and a great deal of good is being done."
By the 1930s the Central Hall advertised these shows as the Saturday Cinema, and they continued right up to the 1940s.
In 1931 an official count of the seating capacity revealed that there were a total of 3576 seats. There were 1788 in the Large Hall, 102 in the Orchestra, 858 in the stalls, and 828 in the balcony.
In 1933 the old Philharmonic Hall was destroyed in one of Liverpool's most spectacular fires, and until 1939, when the new hall opened, the Liverpool Philharmonic Society played at the Central Hall.
The Central Hall Saturday Cinema reopened on 1 January 1944.
In May 1990 the Methodists put the hall up for Sale
because they could no longer afford the upkeep of the building. Merseyside Film Institute then wanted to use the Grade II Listed Building as a Regional Film Theatre. The building would have been perfect (if a trifle large). It still contained a built-in projection room. However, nothing came of this, and the hall has changed hands.
Major restoration work was undertaken on the building in 1997/8, which reopened in November 1998 as licensed premises called Grand Central.
It was reopened in August 2006 by some of the traders from Quiggins, and the floor of the former 'Large Hall' is now covered with shops, as is the smaller hall, underneath, at street level. At least the balcony level and the ceiling of the dome may now be clearly seen, although the public aren't allowed in to that level.