Welwyn Theatre & Embassy Cinema

By Roger Filler

Welwyn Theatre interior 1929
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
Welwyn Theatre, May 1938
Welwyn Garden City Library
Embassy Cinema before demolition in 1984. Playing is 'Friday 13th, Part II'
Welwyn Garden City Library

This building, in Parkway, between John Lewis and the junction with Parkway, now forms part of the local NHS Trust, but for many years it was the Welwyn Theatre and later the Embassy Cinema.
It opened for business in June 1928 and had seating for around 1,200. Although it was fully equipped for plays it was used rarely for those purposes and was mainly a cinema, occasionally hired to local drama groups.
The first ‘talkie’ was shown in February 1931 when “All Quiet On The Western Front” packed the theatre for three weeks.

Embassy

A fire in October 1962 seriously damaged the stage, and in the following year it changed its name to the Embassy, after newcomers to the town complained the building was not in Welwyn and not primarily a theatre.
In 1967 the cinema was refurbished, the seats were changed and the capacity reduced to 985, but like so many cinemas up and down the country, the Embassy found it harder and harder to run at a profit and though for a while bingo sessions were held, it finally closed its doors in November 1983. A commemorate plaque outside the building marks its significance.

Did you used to go to the Embassy regularly? What do you remember about the building? What films did you see there. Share your memories by logging on today.

This page was added on 14/06/2009.

Comments about this page

  • Just looking through my diary I can confirm that I photographed the outside of the cinema on 18-08-1983, the interior on 08-01-1984 and the demolition during July 1984 (not sure of the exact day but this might be on the neg wallet). In answer to the question about was I an official photographer etc – no, my obsession in the early 1980s was cinema architecture. I travelled the country photographing as many buildings as I could – and I have seen a fair few.
    The Welwyn Theatre in 1951 had BTH projectors and was operated by Shipman and King Cinemas Ltd, the town had a population of 18,090. The Pavilion in Welwyn (also BTH), the proprietor was Pavilion Cinema (Welwyn) Ltd and the population of the village was 5,257. In 1964, the re-named Embassy had the short-lived CinemaScope lens system for widescreen movies. The population had increased to 37,500 and that for Welwyn to 5,257. All these facts are courtesy of the Kinematograph Year Books. I can post pics if someone could tell me how.

    By paul francis (01/10/2019)
  • Hi Paul, Thanks for your reply. You won’t be able to add them directly as this article was created by someone else, but if you email them to admin@ourwelwyngardencity.org.uk, we could either add them to this article with the author’s permission, or you could create your own page and we could link them. Thanks, Ed.

    By Marion Hill (02/10/2019)
  • I was luckily enough to photograph the building inside and out when in use, and was there during the demolition, the bricks had ‘WGC’ set into the frog. Almost certainly made at the Twentieth Mile gravel and brick works (digressing but the works were used during WW2 as the practical training ground for No.2 School of Airfield Construction based at RAF Mill Green).

    By paul francis (30/09/2019)
  • Hi Paul, thanks for your comments. Were you an official photographer with Commission for New Towns? It would be so interesting to hear more from you – perhaps an interview? (Ed.)

    By Marion Hill (01/10/2019)
  • I can remember my Grandad taking my brother and I to the Embassy to see Walt Disney’s “The Jungle Book” when it first came out in 1967. The queue went all along Parkway and down Howardsgate!!

    By Martyn Cooper (01/11/2018)
  • My wife and I met in the Welwyn Theatre on Easter Monday the 7th April 1958 (60 year ago). The feature film was “Happy is the Bride”.
    We were married at the Registry Office then situated in the Council Offices corner of The Campus and Bridge Road.
    It is a happy marriage, our two children were both born in WGC, one at The Peartree Maternity Hospital and the other at The Queen Elizabeth 2.
    Now living in Australia with 2 children, 7 Grand Children and 6 Great Grand Children. The Bride was Happy!

    By John Thorby (08/04/2018)
  • After we came back to Welwyn Garden in 1976, we all used to go to the Welwyn Theatre and watch some productions. Our Hillman Imperial probably got used to the routine; every Saturday at 6:30 prompt we started the engine. The kids used to buy a bucket of popcorn to share, and went off to see a film together while me & my wife went to see another film together.

    The Embassy Cinema was on the same complex, but none of us lot went to it. We all preferred the picture house behind the Department Stores on Parkway – such a brilliant place it was! It was a shame when they demolished Welwyn Theatre in 1984 – my mother especially was extremely upset at this. Soon we got to terms with it and instead went to the pub 🙂

    By George Boston (19/09/2015)
  • Just been back to WGC on a memory lane wander.  I practically grew up in that cinema. My mum worked her way up from usher to ticket seller  to unofficial manager. I spent many happy Saturday mornings there. Good days, so sad they couldn’t preserve it. Watched my first AA film on my sixteenth birthday, The Sweeney

    By Deeze Browne (04/09/2015)
  • My granddad was Harry Rogers he was a projectionist in the very early days where he would meet his wife Beatrice Wilding who worked there as a usher. Harry also helped do many electrical work for the town inlcuding the wiring for the British home stores now John Lewis.

    By Andrew Rogers (01/01/2015)
  • I remember going to see the Exorcist age 16 but I looked 12…..how I got in I will never know. Going on my first date to see Stardust, only to find out my date hated blood…had to leave never saw the film!!! Seeing Gone With The Wind in the 80’s with my mum and a couple of friends laughing all the way through….being shushed. Happy days !!!

    By sandra tyler (29/01/2013)
  • its lovely seeing old pictures, my dad was the manager and after he died my mum took over till she retired in 1983. my childhood was spent in the cinema, i love it when the local amateur dramatics society took it over for a week. i showed customers to there seats.

    By rosemary mcharron nee Abbey (20/04/2012)
  • The complete cinema building was demolished. I took many pictures at the time showing the whole sorry process.

    By I J Williams (21/11/2011)
  • Just before the fire started at the cinema, I had just been performing on the stage with The Welwyn Thalians. This was the first night of our presentation of Carousel The men were using the dressing room under the stage where our costumes were kept for the show. Most of the costumes were destroyed in the blaze but my costume which was a clown costume escaped with minor burns. This fire was a major disaster for the Thalians but we managed to do several performances at my school, Heronswood secondary modern later in the same week.

    By Peter Gardner (05/08/2011)
  • I used to go to Saturday Morning Cinema at the Embassy in 1971-73. I think it cost about 1 or 2 Newpence.

    By Trevor's son (17/01/2011)
  • The cinema was completely demolished but the front of the building that replaces it has been designed to look almost identical. I used to work as a relief projectionist there in 1980. I always regret not having taken my camera with me one day. They were still using two Westar projectors with Peerless carbon arc lamps at the time, and probably till the end.

    By Philip Lamb (14/01/2011)
  • The cinema was not demolished in 1984, but is now offices used by the West Herts and North and East Herts PCT.

    By Jenny McCann (20/03/2010)

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