The first true motion pictures were produced by the Lumière Brothers in the 1890s. Initially shown as travelling shows and part of variety acts, the popularity of cinema grew rapidly in the early 20th century.
In Sheffield, this was pioneered by the Sheffield Photo Co., run by the Mottershaw family, which, travelling in a horse drawn cart, displayed films in local halls.
The Mottershaws were also innovators in producing films of the popular ‘chase’ genre, beginning with ‘A Daring Daylight Burglary’ in 1903, and proving influential in the developing British film industry.
Following the introduction of fire safety legislation controlling the use of highly flammable Nitrate film stock, travelling shows were largely replaced by purpose built cinema halls, which rapidly proliferated.
While the Central Hall, Norfolk Street had been Sheffield’s first Cinema when it opened on the 10 July 1905, all films were accompanied by variety acts.
The city’s first purpose built cinema was the Sheffield Picture Palace in Union Street, opening in August 1910, and the following years saw a proliferation of small theatres.
From the late 1920s, the addition of sound to film spurred another new wave of theatres in the 1930s, with the Paragon becoming Sheffield’s first cinema designed in the sound era.
This guide briefly describes the development of cinema in Sheffield and directs researchers to the most appropriate publications at Sheffield City Archives & Local Studies Library.
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