During the hey days of cinema going the South Eastern valleys Caerphilly was never really an important town It boasts an impressive  and enormous Norman castle that dominates the town, the second biggest in the UK, only Windsor castle is bigger. 

Nevertheless Caerphilly did have two cinemas. As with many other towns in the area Caerphilly has suffered through the collapse of the traditional heavy industries. The castle aside Caerphilly is probably most famous for its cheese. In more recent years the town has fared better probably due to its close proximity to the Principalities Capital city of Cardiff. Nowadays Caerphilly is the Principle town of the county borough.
With seating for over 800 patrons in the stalls and balcony the Castle Cinema was built for live performances and film shows, although the stage was not overly wide it was deep and served its purpose well. Originally known as the Electric Theatre, the venue changed it's name when it focused mostly on film. Originally the facade was a much nicer ornemental affair, this was removed when it became the Castle Cinema, leaving the towns first run cinema with a very bland façade without any features of interest.

Opening in July 1913 the cinema was built by the Caerphilly Miners Institute who ran all aspects of the day to day operations including film bookings for a number of years. By the late forties the venue had been acquired by D. Bell and H. Crosberg and at this point film bookings were handled by the Solomon Andrews Circuit based in Cardiff, under the direction of Francis Andrews. A change of programme took place twice a week.

A medium sized cinema, the Castle was rather plain without any redeeming features internally and externally. By the mid-fifties the cinema was owned and operated by numerous independent exhibitor companies and individual operators, including the Welsh actor and performer Stan Stennet Managed the cinema together with the theatre Royal in Barry and a venue in Porthcawl. Cinemascope was installed during the fifties with the screen being positioned on the stage, in front of the proscenium.

More so than showing films the cinema rose to fame following a live concert staged there by the then notorious Sex Pistols on the 14th December 1976 with other punk bands of the day including the Clash. The bands UK tour attracted the media hype and publicity following the cancellation of their gigs at numerous venues across the UK due to pressure from various religious groups. The Caerphilly gig went ahead although it only attracted an audience of around 60, while outside a larger group of religious protesters staged an alternative concert of Christmas carol singing.  The local council gave permission for the concert to go ahead , one of just three concerts throughout the UK, the much lengthier of the UK was mostly cancelled. 

Although there were better cinemas in adjoining valleys the Castle cinema in Caerphilly was still able to attract good audiences with a loyal following of cinemagoers through to the mid seventies. 
You can see this cinema as featured in a BBC News article related to the Sex Pistols concert at the venue.    
The Workmen’s Hall Cinema became a popular attraction for the community, owned and operated by the Caerphilly Miner’s Welfare committee. The hall seated 650 patrons on two levels, stalls and balcony. The auditorium was small but nicely decorated. Intended for use as a concert hall, the venue became a full time cinema during the fifties when cinema became the primary leisure attraction throughout Wales.

Originally the Proscenium was 18ft wide, later this was expanded for cinemascope to 34ft. The cinema closed as a full time operation during the late 1960’s with occasional film shows throughout the 1970’s, competing with the Castle cinema a little further along the same street. Bingo became a popular feature at the hall once film shows had become less financially viable. New {second hand} cinema seating was installed for use by the bingo customers, the original cinema seats were known to be the most uncomfortable throughout the valleys
Alongside the cinema was the traditional workingmen’s club, a reading room and snooker hall. With some small offices at the rear of the stage area, used by the committee, access to the offices is via a separate entrance at the rear of the building.

The Workmen’s Hall projection box was functional with basic equipment, two Kalee 11 head projectors and two light dimmers controlling the house lights and footlights around the stage and screen. The basic set up enabled the projection box to be handled by one projectionist, usually two projectionists were needed in cinemas at that time.
Visitors with memories, information or photographs of the cinemas listed on this web Page are encouraged to contact the web master using the email address linked on the main index page.
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 - 2015
During the 1970’s the cinema was independently owned and operated, at this time it was twinned, seating 400 and 120. The new two screen venture continued for some time but struggled in terms of attendance and booking of popular current films of the day, which often screened at other valleys cinemas within easy reach of Caerphilly a good while before screening at the two Castle cinemas.

With ongoing declining audiences the cinema closed towards the end of September 1989 for conversion to a snooker hall, in 2002. By now the former cinema had fallen into a bad state of repair, looking rather unattractive it was considered an eyesore, attracting a great deal of concern from the community and the local authority.

Eventually the snooker hall closed, the former cinema stood unused for a few years, starting to look untidy and in a serious state of disrepair the local authority acquired the site and demolished the cinema, replacing it with a modern government housing association office.
The Castle might not have been one of the best picture palaces entertaining the communities within the South Eastern Valleys but the cinema was both a landmark and an eyesore in a town dominated by the real castle that dominated the opposite side of the street.

Today there is nothing to remind us that there was once a Castle cinema in Caerphilly, or anything to suggest that the venue played host to a variety of early punk rock groups and new Welsh talent that became known worldwide.
With the decline of industry in the valleys the venue became mostly a bar with minimal funding during the nineties. In 2009 the building was sold, plans have been submitted to convert the premises’ to a memorial tribute/museum for Tommy Cooper who was born in the town. In 2011 the local authority together with the trustees of the venue agreed to work together to restore the hall for community use while securing external funding for the hall. Nowadays the auditorium offers a variety of live entertainment with tribute acts and amateur theatre productions. The projection room remains intact although rather surprisingly films have not been screened at the hall since it ceased regular film performances back in the late sixties. Occasional film shows did take place through the early and mid seventies, mostly children's matinee shows together with the odd political film screening for members and guests.

While the hall was popular when used for bingo, becoming a cinema and a venue for the annual pantomime during the mid to late forties would be the auditoriums biggest success, bingo brought in the crowds but its use as a cinema competing in a tough environment with considerable competition from the nearby valleys proved to be the biggest achievement.

For reasons unknown, the British Hollywood actor, Cary Grant made a visit to the cinema although it is unclear on the reasons why or what year the visit took place. 

Political gatherings were also a feature of the hall, this was a common event at most of the Miners and Workmen's halls throughout the valleys, with big figures of the day making noteworthy speeches to supporters in the working class heartland.