Like most children of my generation we experienced the excitement of our first visit to a cinema in 1919. At Watton it was a long wooden building situated between the vicarage grounds and Betty Hogg's Lane, now known as Priory Road,
These were the days of the "Slapstick Comedies" with Charlie Chaplin starring in "The Tramp", "The Gold rush" and "The Kid", etc. The black and white picture would appear on the screen to be followed by the words, which usually someone sitting near you read out aloud, thus saving you the effort. Breakdowns were frequent and one could usually anticipate them as they were generally preceded by much flickering. During the period when the fault was being repaired, Ella Rose, who entertained on the piano before the start, would be pressed into playing some of the popular tunes of the day, mostly old war time favourites like, "It’s a long way to Tipperary", and everyone would join in.
Joe Swann, the projectionist, operated from a small compartment suspended from the roof of the building and the ladder used to gain access was then pushed back flush to the wall when he was in side so it should not impede people's view. One night his young assistant, Jack Roberts, stepped out of the projection room to come down the ladder and not realising it had been pushed back against the wall, he crashed to the floor, breaking his collar bone. After the cinema closed down, travelling concert parties used the building occasionally, usually staying a week, or two, at a time.
After that it became derelict for many years until the British Legion bought it and after renovation, used it as their H.Q. until it was demolished to make way for residential development about twelve years ago.
The first talking pictures to be shown in the town were at the Wayland Hall in the early 1930's and in 1938 the first purpose built cinema was opened on Norwich Road. For the next twenty years the "Regal" usually had a full house, but with television becoming increasingly popular the cinema audi ences gradually became smaller and it finally closed down in March 1973.
Today the building is used by Richard Neave Ltd., International Movers and Storers. In the early days of the last war the Church Army built a large canteen on land adjoining the cinema for the use of service personnel and this was staffed by voluntary workers under the supervision of a Church Army Captain. Shortly after the war it was run down and the buildings were purchased by Messrs Harmer's in 1956 and converted into a clothing factory, closing down in April 1982 with the loss of 57 jobs. Once again it was sold and is now used by the Wayland Billiard and Snooker club.
Richard Neave's removal vans outside their offices, the former "Regal" Cinema.