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My grandmother was devastated when The Ritz cinema in Lincoln closed...

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: February 04, 2012

  • Laura Johnson, with her daughter Sophie, going through a scrapbook of stars collected by Margaret Bowley

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Tens of thousands of people passed through the doors of The Ritz during its golden age as a cinema.

Whether it was to see a film, be a part of the kids clubs or to work behind the scenes, people flocked to the High Street hub until it closed its doors in 1996.

And since volunteer group Off the Bench announced that it would be reopening the cinema later this year, people with fond memories of the art deco picture house have come forward.

Laura Johnson, 32, told the Echo that after it was closed her grandmother Margaret Bowley, who had worked as an usherette since the 1960s, lost her purpose in life.

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She said Mrs Bowley, who died in 2008 aged 78, would have been the first in line to help breathe new life into the cinema.

"My nan would be absolutely over the moon if she knew The Ritz was coming back," said Mrs Johnson.

"She worked at that place from the mid-1960s to the very day that it closed. And when it finally shut its doors for the last time, she was devastated.

"It wasn't just a job to her – when it closed it was like losing a member of the family. She missed it. After she stopped working there she started to lose her purpose in life.

"It hit her harder than she could have thought and harder than she'd ever tell anyone.

"Her big fear was that The Ritz would be taken over by a big company and lose its heart.

"It always felt like a really family oriented atmosphere and you just don't get that anymore – certainly not with the big companies.

"If she knew it was opening again, knowing my nan, she'd be the first person on that doorstep giving advice and helping out."

After Mrs Bowley died, her granddaughter found a photo album bursting with pictures of her time at The Ritz.

Mrs Johnson added: "The album was her personal and private collection and is filled with photos and autographs from some of her favourite stars.

"It's a strange time to discover it with the announcement that The Ritz is going to re-open and it came as a complete surprise, but we're going to carry it on as a family memento and it'll be something nice to add to."

The album has now been passed on to Mrs Johnson's daughter, 13-year-old Sophie Johnson, who has already started filling it with photos taken with some of her favourite present-day stars.


JANUARY 20: Flashback to 1937 for grand reopening of Lincoln's Ritz cinema...

JANUARY 19: Initial survey of Lincoln's Ritz cinema project completed...

JANUARY 14: Help still required to restore Lincoln's Ritz cinema to its former glory...

JANUARY 13: Ritz cinema reopening 'could unite a whole community' in Lincoln...

JANUARY 6: Lincoln's Wetherspoons pub The Ritz to re-open as cinema after 15 years...

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  • stylishdevil  |  February 04 2012, 10:03PM

    What a lovely story, I remember Mrs B in the interval bringing round her ice cream box. Not every story in the echo has to be doom and gloom and about serious stuff. What a lovely piece of history and brings back memories. Oh dear anonymous4689 what have you against this story, its certainly rattled your cage. I think its a nice piece of history and nice to read a nice light hearted story rather than crime and bad news.

    |   5
  • janej47  |  February 04 2012, 9:57PM

    I think that my Mother would have been so proud to see this article , and to have known that her Great Granddaughter Sophie is still adding to the memory book with her own collection of signed photos gathered through her connections in the dance and theatrical world . A fitting tribute to the long undisputed Matriarch of the Odeon/Ritz over many years.

    |   6
  • lincoln6  |  February 04 2012, 5:36PM

    How many more times are the Echo going to print the same old tripe, I was once slapped by a girlfriend in the Ritz for doing the old popcorn box trick.....

    |   -9
  • moocher1  |  February 04 2012, 12:56PM

    Next door to the Odeon in the early '70s was "Supersave" and thousands flocked through the doors there aswell, i wonder if they will re-open that aswell?

    |   -11
  • Gnome_Chomsky  |  February 04 2012, 12:32PM

    Is it just me, or has the name 'Ritz' taken on some mythical status? It was the Odeon when I was a regular visitor in the 1970s.

    |   -1
  • TB789  |  February 04 2012, 8:17AM

    I was getting a bit worried that the echo hadn't managed to re-hash this recently. Normal service resumed. It's amazing that they managed to produce a daily paper for so many years really.

    |   -3