History of The Market Hall Cinema

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History through the years.

Conveniently located in Brynmawr town centre, the Market Hall Cinema offers a friendly welcome and a movie-going treat. With a traditional-style large screen and an auditorium seating 350 people, the cinema has a fantastic atmosphere for an unforgettable experience. There’s great family films throughout the year as well as the latest Blockbuster movies. So, settle back, relax and prepare to be entertained!
The date the first Market Hall opened was 1844. The “New” Market Hall, the building that exists today, opened on February 28th, 1894. The main market took place on Saturdays, a tradition that continued into the 21st century.

After the building became a permanent cinema, the front rows of cinema seats (stalls) were removed on Friday nights, into the foyer, ready for the Saturday mornings to provide the town with their indoor market. The stalls seats were removed to the foyer by two council workers who also put down the trestle tables for the market. This operation was then reversed on the Saturday after the market, with the wooden floor being disinfected in-between. Patrons attending the afternoon matinees were often treated to the smell of rotting fruit and veg, discarded by the stallholders, mixed with the stale tobacco smoke from the previous nights show (indoor smoking was then allowed).

In the mid 1970’s the hall was reduced in size by dropping a wall to create a permanent indoor market and a “New Stage”. This reduced the seating capacity to 350, and is now slightly lower due to the Disability Discrimination Act. This is the raised stadium style seating in the rear half of the auditorium now.

The indoor market area now houses the Brynmawr Library, after the indoor market finally closed. It is likely that films would have been shown very early in the life of the Market Hall, probably by visiting showmen with their bioscope shows, prior to the Market Hall becoming a cinema.

The Market Hall clock was presented by a Charles Morley Esq., a member for the county which was then under Breconshire. The clock has been completely refurbished and is a focal point on the Market Hall’s façade.

The existing frontage of the Market Hall, that has been restored, was added in the early 1930’s. It is provided for a new outer foyer area with a modern projection room above. It is believed that the raised seating area was also installed at this time. If you look as you enter the outer foyer, you will see the arch of the original entrance and the two supports for the “Market Hall” sign, before you enter the inner foyer. When the projection room was refurbished a few years ago, we were able to see the old “Market Hall” sign in the stone work, in the cavity below the projection room floor level and above the outer foyer ceiling.

At the same time as the 1970’s alterations took place, the front of the hall was “modernised”, using decorative metal cladding which obscured the original features. This was quite a common practice at this time and the Market Hall was not the only cinema in the UK to receive this treatment. It was considered a cost-effective way of modernised an old façade and in many cases hiding years of neglect in maintenance work. This does not seem to be the case here as we were surprised to see the relatively good condition of the masonry when the cladding was removed.

The cinema shows a range of films and, wherever possible, shows new films on their release dates. The most successful film was “Mamma Mia” which played for a total of five weeks. The final two weeks being the “singalong” version. The staff, and many of our customers, dressed up “Abba Style” for this version. Every performance ended with “dancing in the aisles”! Nearly 7,000 people visited the cinema for this film.

Other big films in recent years have included the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, “The Chronicles of Narnia” and of course “Harry Potter”.

In addition to our core purpose in providing the only cinema in Blaenau Gwent, the Market hall is the venue for Brynmawr Amateur Operatic Society’s annual productions. The Market Hall is also the venue for the town’s Remembrance Sunday parade and service which is relayed, via loud speakers, onto the Market Square for those who can’t get in! The wreath laying ceremony then takes place, after the service, at the cenotaph on the Market Square.

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