Location: Ulster Folk Museum / Town Area / 26. Picture House
This is an original building.
The cinema was built in the 1850s and came from Gilford, County Down. It was dismantled and moved to the Folk Museum in 1996.
The building operated as a silent cinema until 1931. The two storey structure dates from the middle of the 1800s. It was originally used as a hay store and was later adapted for use as a cinema, shortly before the First World War. The Gilford cinema is typical of small town, early Picture Houses that opened in Ireland before the First World War.
The Gilford silent cinema was known locally as the ‘Picture House’. The proprietor, a small local businessman, Mr George H. Pentland ran the cinema. At the height of its success films were shown every night and twice on Saturdays.
There was no screen, as such, and films were projected directly onto a white washed wall. Mrs Ida Pentland played the piano accompaniment. Other members of the family, helped by collecting the entrance fees, serving tea and buns and when required reading aloud the subtitles to the films for the short sighted and illiterate.
The auditorium was poorly heated, so during cold evening picture shows, stoneware hot water bottles were available for hire.
For several decades the Gilford Picture House provided popular entertainment for the village of Gilford and its immediate locality. Its clientele were mostly local mill workers.
The pioneering era of the silent cinema came to an end with the arrival of films with sound in 1929. Many small cinemas could not afford the new sound and soon went out of business.
The Gilford Picture House closed around 1931 but the building remained unchanged over the following decades. With help from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Foundation for Sport and the Arts the museum acquired the cinema building in mid 1990s.
Look out for the range of silent films which would have been shown in the early twentieth century.