The Roxy History
Standing Proud in Ulverston, Cumbria for Over 80 Years
The Roxy opened in 1937 and its first showing drew opening night crowds to the musical ‘Rose Marie’ starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette Macdonald.
Most cinema names grandly suggested classical theatre with Greek and Roman names, such as the Palladium, Odeon, Hippodrome, and Coliseum. But not ‘Roxy’. Although it does have origins in the Persian word for ‘dawn’, it comes from a different source.
Samuel L. Rothapfel was an enormously-successful American dance/theatre/vaudeville and cinema entrepreneur, whose famous nickname was “Roxy”. He was responsible for the great appeal of spectacular movie palaces. Rothapfel said on the secret of his success:
‘Giving the people what they want is fundamentally and disastrously wrong. The people don’t know what they want. They want to be entertained, that’s all. Don’t give the people what they want–give ’em something better.’
Within a couple of years of its opening, Henry Simpson took control of Ulverston’s Roxy. Henry was one of Ulverston’s luminaries, combining public work with cinema ownership. Harry Simpson (Henry’s son), joined Henry running The Roxy from 1957. When Henry died in 1960, Harry continued to run The Roxy until 1972, when his brother Jack Simpson took over – he already ran The Royalty in Bowness and The Alhambra in Keswick.
In 1974 the building was sold to Brooks Wilkinson Ltd. The Roxy was then split into a cinema/bingo operation, with the cinema confined to the original circle. It was divided horizontally into two, with the bingo hall in the former stalls. The cinema retained its art deco features, and installed the largest screen in Cumbria (43 feet). Seating capacity was reduced to just over 300. Incidentally, the original layout can still be seen in the still-operating Hippodrome cinema in Ashton under Lyne, where it is a grade II listed building.
Jack Simpson continued to operate the cinema side until the mid 1970s. Then Brooks Wilkinson ran it themselves, via John Sail, and later his son Andrew.
In September 2006, Charles Morris of Northern Morris Cinemas leased the Roxy, making it part of his group of 6 cinemas in Cumbria and Yorkshire.
Did you know The Roxy is also home to ‘Film Club at The Roxy’?
Founded by Robin Hutt and Gwyneth Walker, ‘Film Club at the Roxy’ started in September 1989. By this point in the cinema’s history, only 3 films were being shown per week!
Now the Film Club has hundreds of members throughout Ulverston and the surrounding area and shows 1 film per month.
Focusing on titles that audiences might not easily be able to view, 2021/2022’s schedule includes Oscar-Winning Foreign Film ‘Another Round’ as well as ‘CODA’, which won 3 Oscars in 2022.
The Laurel and Hardy Museum, located on the ground floor of the Roxy, opened on the 19th of April 2009 to coincide with the unveiling of the Laurel and Hardy statue in Ulverston’s town centre.
Bill Cubin, grandfather of current Laurel & Hardy Museum proprietor Mark, uncovered Ulverston’s connection to cinema and comedy legend Stan Laurel during his research. He found Stan’s original birth certificate, proving him to be a born and bred Ulverstonian!
Now attracting over 15,000 visitors to the town per year (at least pre COVID!), The Laurel & Hardy Museum is also an integral part of Ulverston’s famous ‘Another Fine Fest‘, one of the most popular free comedy and live performance festivals in the country. An amazing mural to the comedy duo was created during Another Fine Fest on the side of the Roxy and is greatly admired by locals and tourists.
It’s hard to imagine Ulverston without one of its most famous sons!
The Roxy is also home to U-GYM, a locally run gym with weights room and fitness studio. A great focus on our community’s health and wellbeing, U-GYM is looking forward to its role within The Roxy Collective and expanding their offer to the community.
The latest business to make The Roxy its home is 808010 Productions. A film production company with an award winning producer at the helm, and what better place to create future films than the iconic Roxy. 808010 Productions is excited to be helping The Roxy Collective make the best of the building and the free services it can offer to the local community.