The Savoy occupies the oldest known theatre site in Wales.
The building in which the present theatre is housed was constructed on the foundations of the Bell Inn. Originally known as the Assembly Rooms, it opened in around 1832 as the Bell Assembly Rooms, part of the Bell Hotel. The venue was first granted an entertainment licence in the same year.
It was refurbished as the Theatre Royal in 1850 under J. F. Rogers, and later became the town’s Corn Exchange. It has been through many owners and name changes down the years: Flannel Exchange & Assembly Rooms, Oddfellow’s Hall, Bell Assembly Rooms, New Theatre/Theatre Royal, Corn Exchange, The Bell Rinkeries Living Picture Palace, Palace, Scala Cinema, Regent, New Picture House, Magic Lantern Theatre and of course Savoy to name but a few!
It became the Bell Rink in the late nineteenth century when the roller skating craze hit the UK and from 1907 to 1909 it screened films between skating sessions. In June 1910, after the skating craze had faded, it was re-opened under the name of the new ‘Picture Palace and Variety Theatre” with a showing of ‘The Funeral Procession of Edward VII’. Over the next few years, The Palace continued to show variety acts which featured conjurors, comedians, soloists and singing troupes in addition to silent films.
In 1926 the theatre was put up for auction and bought by the Albany Ward Group. It was extensively refurbished and the Grand Opening of the ‘New Picture House’ was held on March 5th 1928 with Syd Chaplin in “The Better ‘Ole”. It was later taken over by Gaumont British Theatres in February 1929. The last known live variety act performed in early 1930 after which talking pictures became the vogue and the golden era of cinemas began.
In 1955 CinemaScope was installed, and it then operated with 522 seats. Leased by an independent operator from 5th January 1958, after some redecoration it was re-named Regal Cinema from 4th April 1971. By the early 1980’s it was operating with only 200 seats because of the deteriorating fabric of the auditorium and closed as a cinema, later reopening as a bingo hall and again closing in 1983.
After a few years it was then taken over by a group named ‘Save Britain’s Heritage’ and re-opened as the ‘Magic Lantern Theatre’. This was not successful and closed in the early 1990’s. The lease was then taken by Michael Blakemore who renamed it The Savoy. He went into partnership with locals to form a Trust in order to qualify for much needed grants to refurbish the interior. ‘The Savoy Development Trust’ was formed to try and save the building and after an ESF funded refurbishment in 2005 it became fully operational with 400 seats.
The Savoy Theatre became a Grade II Listed building in 1989.
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