History of Blackburn Cinemas
At one time Blackburn could boast that it had 15 cinemas. (To be precise it was 14, but the Grand which was actually a variety theatre, included films in its performances). Indeed Blackburn was at the forefront of cinematography in several ways. In 1896 when "moving pictures" first began, Blackburn's Lyceum offered the first moving picture show in the town. It must have been a great attraction at the time, although by comparison with today's special effects it would seem very tame. It depicted a man watering his garden with a hose. A boy proceeded to stand on the hose, the man looked at the nozzle, the boy removed his foot and hey presto the man got soaked!
It was believed that Blackburn had the world's first purpose built cinema. This was the Alexandra, on Dock Street, which was reputedly built in 1906, which would have made it the oldest. However evidence shows that it was not completed until 1909. It first opened at Easter of that year. It was the Pendleton Brothers, who first had the idea of building this cinema. They had been showing films in an upstairs room in the Victoria Hall, Eanam and were keen to build a cinema. Despite warnings of disaster, they pressed ahead with their plans and built the Alexandra Hall on the site of some old stables and a windmill in the Audley area. The Alexandra was often referrred to as "Penks", the name being a nickname for "Pendletons Picture Palace". It continued to show films until 1954, when it closed for renovation. In April 1963 it became a bingo hall.