Astonia Cinema, Letchmore Road. 1969

By Simon Mortimer

The Astonia Cinema - Letchmore Road. Photo taken in 1969
Stevenage Museum. P4115

The Astonia Cinema was built in 1936 but changed to a Bingo Hall in 1969. The cinema decided to change to a bingo hall because of plans for a new Odeon to be built in the new town development area and because the Astonia Cinema was having trouble getting the newest films to play at the cinema.

They also had problems with hooliganism to such an extent that teenagers had to be banned from the cinema, so they lost even more money.  The Bingo Hall closed in 1982 after a more popular bingo hall, the ‘Mecca’ opened up.

This page was added on 07/01/2011.

Comments about this page

  • Who owned/started the Astonia and Publix? My brother and I used to go. I liked it then because you saw 2 films.

    I remember the Teddy Boy era too.

    I miss Stevenage. I used to live in Grove Road. I wish I’d never sold number 45. I only paid £12,800 for it!

    By Paul Johnson (04/04/2016)
  • As a child (60s) I frequently went with my friends to the Saturday afternoon matinee at the Astonia.  There were two sittings and the management never seemed bothered if us kids sat through the lot two times (I seem to remember it cost a shilling to go, that is 5p by today’s money).  For example I watched Thunderbirds 6 and Jason of the Argonauts twice on separate afternoons.

    However these were the days.  Our parents never worried what we got up to even though we were 8 or 9; I just could not do that with my children today.  Also one must remember that  there were no DVDs or dial a film on the internet.  It was only the cinema to watch a film unless it just happened to be on TV. 

    By David Abram (06/02/2015)
  • The Stevenage Society for Local History committee feels that Riley’s Snooker Club building, although not architecturally outstanding, is an important historic feature of the town. As part of the Society’s role is to encourage the conservation of such features (which appear to be rapidly disappearing) it will investigate the possibility of getting it listed. It will also put its comments opposing the demolition of this 1930s building on the Council website when a formal planning application is made.

    By Pauline Maryan (05/02/2014)
  • Now sadly threatened with demolition, after surviving the purge of most other 1930s Hertfordshire cinemas. Unfortunately, the response of the Stevenage Society, when asked on 13 January what it would be doing to save the building was rather disappointing, the Chairman going so far as to say that in her view the building is ‘hideous’ and that she is looking forward to its replacement.

    By Hugh Madgin (20/01/2014)
  • I had the dubious pleasure of working at the “Astonia” as what was called a second operator, it was like walking into a museum, the projecters were carbon rod projecters. Seeing the same film twice a day seven days a week was too much for me, so I left after a week and went to work at “Ethers” as an electro plater.

    By Billy Gray (21/10/2013)
  • I worked part/time in the coffee bar in the new town square in 1957 when the only leisure entertainment was the Astonia “In the Old Town”, and all those new influx were used to much more than that and we used to have some real upsets in the coffee bar because the new Teenagers were restless/ bored/frustrated BUT then the MECCA came and eased the situation. That poor cinema took the brunt of it

    By Malcolm Waldock (18/02/2013)
  • Howard, you are totally accurate. I would go with friends on a Sunday afternoon to watch those dreadful Hammer films. We called it the “flea pit”. The egg stain was always there and the boys would taunt George in a sing-song way “George! George!” He’d come down the aisles and yell “who’s calling my name?” There was often more entertainment in the seats than on the screen!

    By Janet Johnston (Thomson) (09/08/2012)
  • Compared to the Publix up at the other end of the High Street, the Astonia was almost palatial. At one time, around the early to mid-sixties when vandalism was fairly frequent, they employed a ‘bouncer’, George(?). Far from being a fearful character, he was something of a gentle giant and was taken advantage of by some of the youngsters. There were two aisles and George would faithfully patrol his beat throughout the films, all the time being subjected to taunts and coarse comments hurled at him from from out of the darkness. An earlier memory I have of the Astonia is of the time of the Queen’s coronation in 1953. All of us kids were marched down from Fairlands School to see the Pathe Newsreel of the event. We were each presented with a bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate in a commemorative tin. We were also given a commemorative mug with the Queen’s and Prince Philip’s pictures on it.

    By Howard Roberts (05/02/2012)
  • That’s so funny. I heard it was an ice cream thrown at the screen. I remember it well, bring back the interlude !

    By Phil Lean (18/11/2011)
  • Remember the egg stain on the screen !!!. Watched many wonderful movies at the Astonia not forgetting the bags of Butterkist and bottles of orange kiora drink.

    By Steve Mellor (01/11/2011)

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