Cwmbran is one of several new towns established in 1949 and the only new town to be located in Wales. The idea was simple, the new town would create new employment and lifestyle opportunities in the industrial South Eastern coalfields area of the valleys. By the mid 1950s it was decided to build an open plan outdoor shopping centre that would attract shoppers from the nearby valleys who were still using old fashioned retail high streets, the new style modern outdoor shopping mall was expected to offer a new style of shopping.

The new town wasn’t exactly a success at first and it struggled to attract the desired shoppers from the valleys who still favored nearby Newport for a shopping trip
Cwmbran local authority worked hard to make its shopping centre an attractive option to those in the valleys. A primary problem was transportation, most people travelling to Cwmbran from the traditional valleys shopping towns would need to change buses at least once and few had the option of taking the train to Cwmbran, where there is a railway station, most other railway stations had long been closed.

Eventually the new shopping area became popular and expanded, a new cinema and bingo club was added in 1972.
Victoria Street
The Olympia Cinema was built in the village of Cwmbran, opening in 1930, long before the Government came to the decision to expand the village of Cwmbran to develop the area into one of the new post war towns. Originally an independent cinema owned and operated by a local businessman, the Olympia was small with seating for 500 patrons on one level. Although small it was functional and perfect for serving the small community of the village. A typical old style cinema with little character and few ornamental features incorporated into the design that might have enhanced its appearance.

With the development of the new Cwmbran town a short distance away, the Olympia Cinema in what was now known as old Cwmbran soon found that it would benefit from the increased population as families moved from the older valley towns into the new housing that had been built in the new town. The cinema might have been a bland building and a complete contrast to the much bigger and plush cinemas offered in nearby Newport town, nevertheless the Olympia became a popular local picture house and continued to attract patrons. 

By the 1950s the old picture house was showing its age and was falling into disrepair, many referred to the Olympia as the flea pit. The Olympia eventually closed its doors in the late 1960s. Shortly after closure the Olympia was acquired by local exhibitor Bernard Snowball who reopened the old picture house again following a quick redecoration of the auditorium and foyer together with cosmetic repairs to the building. Renaming the Olympia as the Studio cinema the venue continued to function with some success driven by the expanding population of Cwmbran. While many locals would travel the short distance to nearby Newport with its impressive choice of larger and modern cinemas including the ABC, Odeon, Coliseum/Scene studio 1 & 2. Cwmbran’s single screen Olympia/Studio cinema held its own in terms of attracting local cinema goers.

In the early seventies Cwmbran Corporation announced that a new multiscreen purpose built cinema was to be constructed in the new towns central shopping precinct together with a purpose built bingo and social club. The new three screen cinema opened in late 1972 and was operated by the expanding Leeds based cinema exhibitor and bingo operator, the Star Group.

Under the operation of Bernard Snowball the Olympia picture house brought in a financial profit, During the 70s Bernard was encouraged to take over the newer purpose built Scene three screen cinemas in the new shopping centre, which became available when the Star Group pulled out of operating the cinemas. Bernard’s mini circuit of cinemas flourished for a good number of years while others in the area had seen considerable decline, resulting in closure.

By the early eighties Bernard withdrew from operating the Olympia and the cinema closed, unused for a number of years the former Olympia cinema has been restored and the facade decorated in the same colour and style of the pub next door. It is unclear if the adjoining pub has acquired the old cinema for use as an extension of the pub or if it uses it as a function hall.

Monmouth Square.
The Scene cinema was a purpose built a three screen cinema and entertainment complex for the Leeds based Star Group, with a bingo hall forming part of the entertainment complex. At the time the main operator of such venues was the Star Group, based in Leeds but had several similar cinemas and bingo halls in the North of England and had also acquired an old cinema in nearby Newport where it had converted part of the venue to a studio cinema called Star Studio 1 & 2.

The new venture in Cwmbran was modern and ideally located in the new shopping centre. Although cinema audiences in the seventies had dwindled considerably the Studio cinemas were popular. With total seating of 310 the new cinemas were ideal as a business when the industry itself was going through a rough patch that resulted in the closure of most of the remaining cinemas that survived in the valleys.

Opening on the 5th November 1972 with, Screen 1, What’s up Doc, Screen 2, a double bill of Straw Dogs and Soldier Blue, while Screen 3 ran, Don’t get your knickers in a twist, a German sex drama.

Studio 1 seated 100, 2 seated 80 and 3 seated 130. The venue screened first run features and kept pricing to a minimum level to attract cinemagoers. The cinema remained largely unaltered since opening in 1972 although it changed hands several times. In 1976 the Star group leased the cinemas to a local operator, in December of that year. The new operator, Bernard Snowball, already ran the Studio cinema in old Cwmbran. Following the withdrawal by Star Group, the three screen studio remained independent for most of its working life. The bingo club closed during the mid eighties.

Bernard Snowball pulled out of running the venue, just before this, for a short period, Trevor Harris ran the cinemas. By April 1998 Peter Edmunds took control.
Peter had previously worked at the Studio 1,2,3 when the new venue opened in 1972, but left to work for the ABC circuit in Wales. 

Sadly the Studio cinemas closed in 2013 following the opening of the Vue multiplex also in the main town centre.

The closing films were: Life of Pi, Nativity 2 and Rise of the Guardians on Saturday 12 January 2013.

The operators and management of the shopping centre are considering plans for future use of the former Scene 1,2,3 cinemas, it is widely expected that the site will be redeveloped for retail use in the hope that a large and well known retailer will make use of the opportunity now available. Alternative options would include making the site available for a number of smaller units. For now the cinema unit remains boarded up to prevent access and any potential vandalism.
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The Scene Cinemas - Cwmbran shopping centre.
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013