Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 14, 2016.
Webpage updated: March 14, 2016

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The date of the opening of the Morice Town and District Picture Palace at number 32 William Street has not been traced but it was granted a licence on October 20th 1910.  The licence was held at first by Mr William John Corse.  In 1914 it was known as the Morice Town Picture Theatre and in 1917 as the Morice Town and District Electric Picture Palace.

This cinema was one where the screen was at the front of the theatre, over the entrance.  It had seating for 320 people.

In 1923 the licence passed from Mr Corse to Mr R W T Scawn and then to Mr R D Nichols.  Mr E B Hoyle took it over in 1928, jointly with that for the Belgrave Cinema.  Mr Maurice Cohen held the licence in 1931 but on May 4th 1932 it was transferred to a Miss M Dawson.  Presumably it was she who on June 15th 1932 was 'cautioned with regard to a breach of the regulations which occurred on the premises'.

Disaster struck at approximately 2.15pm on Saturday September 17th 1932.  As the queue gathered for the matinee performance the cinema's chief projectionist, Mr Kenward, was rewinding a film in the operating rooms overlooking Clarence Street when it suddenly ignited.  An attempt to put it out with an extinguisher failed and the flames quickly spread to other films and inflammable materials.  Mr Kenward and his assistant were forced to retreat through the windows and slid to safety down a drain-pipe.

The alarm was raised at the Plymouth Central Police Station at 2.18pm and the brigade and engine were dispatched immediately.  Meanwhile, ex-fireman Selley, of the Devonport Division, had taken a hose reel from the nearby Police Station in Ferry Road and was playing the water on the rear of the premises.  He was later joined by the Chief Constable and the Fire-Superintendent.

When the firemen arrived they found the back of the cinema burning fiercely.  Three jets were in use at the rear while another was attached to a hydrant in William Street and passed through the front entrance in an effort to protect the adjacent shops.  The flames at one point actually extended across Clarence Street.

At the front, the firemen cut away part of the roof to enable another hose to be brought into use and this undoubtedly saved the adjoining Co-operative store.  It took more than an hour to bring the fire under control but the firemen did not leave the premises until around 6.30pm.  Two St John Ambulances were in attendance as well as the Devonport Division fire engine.   The cinema was severely charred and the seats were badly damaged by the fire, the water and falling debris. 

It never reopened as a picture house.