The new Majestic Cinema, on a prime central location on Main Street opened with great fanfare on Monday 10th April 1939. Its first programme was of two films, acclaimed as two of Britain’s masterpieces, Pygmalion starring Leslie Howard, Wendy Hillier and Wilfred Lawson; and This Man Is News starring Barry K. Barnes, Valerie Hobson and Alisatir Sim.
The Northern Whig and Belfast Post hailed it as being an “Important Addition to Portrush Attractions” and “Modern Cinema for Modern Entertainment”.
The Majestic Cinema was owned by a local private company, Portrush Majestic Cinema Ltd, which had three directors – William L. James & Bridget L. James of Glenmanus House, Portrush (now Mill Strand Integrated Primary School) and James Curran, 403 Antrim Road, Belfast.Mr Curran was the proprietor of the Curran Circuit, a chain of cinemas across Northern Ireland, which would have provided the films for the Majestic Cinema.
It was a large cinema, by provincial standards, with seating for 400 in the stalls and 380 in the balcony, constructed and finished to a very high standard in the Art Deco style.The imposing façade of the cinema was painted cream, with piers highlighted in light green. The very tall windows were finished in bronze. The entire front was surrounded by black toughened glass with contrasting infills of tango and egg-shell green.
At street level there was a branch of the Ulster Bank and a café on either side of the main entrance to the cinema. The café offered meals before and after showings of films and could be accessed from the foyer as well as from the street. The staircase leading up to the foyer and the foyer itself were floored with terrazzo.
Access to the Stalls was from a central door at the rear of the foyer and from the foyer wide staircases, connected by a spacious crush hall, lead up on either side to the balcony. Over the foyer was a 20 feet wide dome from which was suspended a large cut-glass chandelier.
The auditorium itself had a curved ceiling and was decorated to a high standard. Mr Frank Hargy, an artist and interior decorator, of Abbey Street in Coleraine, was responsible for all the decoration in the cinema. The stage of the auditorium was lighted by footlights and side battens in colours controlled by dimmers.
Technically the cinema was equipped with all the latest technology. The sound system was the new high fidelity Microphonic by Western Electric – a long established American company who were pioneers in the production of professional sound recording and reproducing equipment.
The film projectors, stage equipment, seating, carpeting and floodlights were supplied and installed by a well-known British firm, Kalee Ltd. For the comfort of patrons the cinema was heated and cooled by a mechanical ventilation system designed, manufactured and installed by Wm. J. Gamble & Sons of Belfast.
In April 1946 a controlling interest in the cinema was acquired by the Curran Circuit, although William L. James, the original owner, continued as a director of the company.
Cinemas prospered throughout the 1950s but the arrival of television – and especially colour television in the 1960s, created a competitive force which was to see the closure of many cinemas across the U.K. and Ireland. The Majestic persevered, passing through the hands of several owners, including Portrush film aficionado Ken Gibbons. Following Ken’s untimely death the Majestic closed.
Today it has been reborn as The Playhouse a restaurant, bar with acoustic music and a small cinema (the balcony of the original cinema) showing independent movies and major sporting events.