Cinema History

If you had found yourself standing in Corbett Square in Tywyn one hundred and thirty-one years ago, you would have easily recognised the building that hosts the modern-day Magic Lantern Cinema.

Constructed in 1893 The Towyn Assembly Room was built on a site of the old Anchor Inn and designed to function as a multi-use space for public events and social occasions. A local newspaper at the time advised that it was, ‘A fine building that has generally improved the appearance of the square and supplied the towns long felt want for public rejoicings.’ Something that continues to this day.

The building’s history as a cinema begins during this period of its use; it is believed that the first record of a film shown there is from 9th March 1900, a silent black and white news reel of the Battle of the Modder River from the Boer War in South Africa. These films were brought to the Assembly Rooms by Mr Arthur Cheetham, an early film maker from North Wales.

It is unclear when the building was converted to a full-time cinema, although it is likely that the balcony was added in the 1920s the balcony to raise the seating capacity to over 420. The cinema especially thrived during World War Two, benefiting from the massive influx of military personnel in this part of Wales.

By the 1970’s, the cinema was in desperate need of maintenance, and so in 1973 it was purchased by Gwynedd Council. New toilets were immediately built for both public and cinema use, and in 1984 the decision was made to spend £40,000 on major renovations – equating to over £161,000 in 2024 – due to the cinema being seen as an important asset to the town. The building was completely gutted and modernised with a new roof, central heating, box office and a sweet shop immediately as you entered. If you visit today, you can see that the cinema has evolved once again to the more open bar/foyer layout, and with it the ability to host live music events.