FASCINATING items of film history have been found languishing under the carpet of a 107-year-old cinema in Thirsk.

Volunteer Howard Wooldridge was replacing the carpet in the back office of the town’s Ritz Cinema when he unearthed pages from trade magazines which reference films and actors from the 1930s.

Names like Boris Karloff, Ronald Reagan and Ernest Hemmingway feature, along with topics including new legislation, film fees and even delinquent children in audiences.

The Northern Echo:

The papers describe films about the Spanish Civil War and topics that are consigned to history such as ‘New Standards for Film Perforation’.

Speaking about the discovery, Mr Wooldridge said: “Just like in an older house you never know just what you’ll find when you lift the carpets.

“People regularly put current newspapers down before laying their carpets - probably rarely done now with professional fitters and underlay, but it’s always a bit of a distraction when you start reading the pages laid down all those years earlier.

“I was pretty surprised though when I discovered these were from 1937.”

The pages were laid under oil cloth underneath newer carpet and come from trade papers that where common in the early days of cinema.

The Northern Echo:

The periodicals were produced both weekly and daily and one of the papers found at the Ritz is titled ‘The Daily Film Renter and Moving Picture News’.

Mr Wooldridge intends to use some of the pages to create a montage to be displayed in a public space at the cinema.

He said: “The majority of the cinema has been re-carpeted, in fact many times since the 30s I’m pleased to say, but the back office isn’t a public space and therefore retains much of the original character.

“I continue the history whenever we’re doing any work by secreting a current cinema flyer behind, under or above what we’ve just done, so future discoverers can see what films were current.”

In the early part of the 20th century the cinema industry was huge and even a small rural town such as Thirsk had three cinemas.

Often they would be screening several shows and for the big films of the day they would have been regularly full.

The Ritz was founded by Walter Power back in 1912.

He was a pioneering figure in the cinema scene and would travel from Thirsk to Leeds twice a week to swap films.

But he would always make sure he was back in time to open up the Ritz for the evening showings, sell tickets then play the piano accompaniment to the then silent films.

The Ritz is now run by a volunteer group which is planning to revamp the downstairs auditorium area with a new floor and replacement seating in due course.

This work could once again throw up some fascinating insights into the venue’s past.

The cinema is always looking for enthusiastic people interested in volunteering and the group holds their AGM on Thursday, May 9 at 7.30pm in Thirsk Town Hall, all are welcome.