IN LAST week’s ‘Through the Decades,’ we recalled seven year-old Megan Phelps winning the ‘Help Shape Cirencester’ competition in 2007 for her plans to build a cinema within walking distance. Cirencester still doesn’t have a cinema, but this wasn’t always the case. 

In November 1937, the town celebrated the opening of the Regal Cinema in Lewis Lane. It was a poetic spot for a community space, as the building stood on the site of the ancient Forum – the heart of Roman Corinium.

Proceeds from the opening performance were donated to the old Memorial Hospital, which is now being made into a parking lot, after campaigners lost a bid for its survival last year. 

Maybe not to contemporary tastes, the theatre was furnished in “soft and restful shades of green” and cinema-goers marvelled at the seats being “noiseless in their automatic tip-up action.”

The chairman of the now defunct Cirencester Urban District Council, Mr A J Matthews, was invited to open the complex. He believed it was one of the most modern cinemas to be found in any provincial town. 

The directors were congratulated for their enterprise and forethought in choosing a site with a “large and suitable” car park to the rear; forward-thinking indeed. 

Perhaps surprising for modern commentators, earphones were available without extra charge for the hearing impaired. 

The theatre’s exterior wasn’t much to look at – it was certainly not ‘regal’ – but it was Cirencester’s own. 

And, as was pointed out at the opening, it had the royal touch for having been built in ‘Coronation Year’ – not of our current queen, but of King George VI upon the abdication of his brother Edward. 

The Regal Cinema was demolished in 2004, and plans to build a replacement fell through last year. So little Megan – who won’t be so little anymore – still can’t walk to the cinema.