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Picture House

Picture House, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum collectionThe silent cinema came from the linen mill village of Gilford, Co Down.

It operated from 1909 up to the late 1931 and the cinema was known locally as the Picture House. 

Its’ premises were housed in an old hay loft, in the upper floor of an old two storey outhouse; part of a group of out buildings centred on a small courtyard.

Incorporated in the street frontage of these outbuildings were retail premises including an established drapery shop owned by a well known local family named Pentland (click images to enlarge). 

The Picture House proprietor was Mr George Henry Pentland who operated the cinema as a successful business sideline and as a shared family enterprise.

Mr Pentland operated the film projector, while his wife Ida, played a musical accompaniment to the current silent film on her piano. Their two children also helped out in the Picture House by collecting fees and serving refreshments (tea and buns) to their customers.

Picture House interior, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum collectionBoth a cheap and more expensive entrance fee into the Picture House was available; those who could afford to pay more sat on more comfortable seats at the back of the auditorium.

There was no screen as such and films were shown directly onto the whitewashed back wall. On cold evenings stoneware hot water bottles were available for hire to keep warm.

For several decades the Picture House provided popular entertainment to Gilford and its immediate locality. Its clientele were mostly local mill workers.

At the height of its success shows were held six nights a week with a matinee for the children on Saturday. Films were hired from cinemas in Banbridge and Portadown, the film reels were brought to Gilford on the local bus and were collected by Mr Pentland. If he missed the delivery Mr Pentland would have to cycle to the town to collect the film. 

Picture House interior, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum collectionThe Picture House is typical of many small cinemas belonging to the silent era, probably unlicensed and with inadequate fire protection in place.

The advent of the talking pictures in 1929 saw the closure of many silent cinemas who could not afford to install the expensive equipment required for the new modern style of moving picture.

However the Picture House building in Gilford was occasionally used for entertainment including films up to the 1950s.