Memories of the Sterling Cinema

In the March edition of Kidlington News, we asked readers if they remembered going to the old Sterling Cinema. The cinema opened in 1938 in the building now occupied by Tesco, and it finally closed in 1977. We are grateful to Phil Bennett, who sent us the article below in which he recalls his visits to the cinema in the 60s and 70s.

Sterling Cinema Recollections
I have lived in Kidlington since I was about 3 – my parents moved here from Bicester around 1963, so I certainly used the Sterling Cinema. As we lived at the ‘bottom’ of Exeter Road, it was not too far to walk to the Sterling – 5 to 6 mins and you were there.

Saturday matinee performances – was it around 2pm-ish? – were the ones I remember going to most of all. We’d queue up outside on the right-hand side of the cinema, as you face the building and from memory, the ticket office was located just inside the door (so ‘St Marys Church’ end rather than ‘Foresters Hall’ side). I think we used to see x2 films on the Saturday afternoon – and often one was in black & white.

Outside there was the wooden framed ‘noticeboard’ that would have black & white stills advertising the forthcoming films. I’m sure a lot of them were Westerns … And was there not some metal tubing as a handrail to ‘keep you in line’ whilst in the queue, but more than likely used as a climbing frame by us?

Although I’m aware there was the ‘upstairs’ seating, I don’t think this was often used – and only then for the overspill when downstairs was full. There was a mural on the ceiling in the upstairs bar area, but as kids, we never ventured in there. Would the mural still be on the ceiling despite Tesco being there all these years, I wonder?

What does surprise me is a young an age I was allowed to attend the Sterling on my own, unaccompanied by parents (though I suspect meeting up with friends of similar age). I’m aware that times were different back then in the late 60s (we would often ‘play’ in the street, Exeter Road, back then – not practical these days).

I do recall watching such films as ‘Love bug’ (1968) and, I think, ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ (1966) – though at the age of then 7, it does seem a very young age to be trundling to the cinema on my own unaccompanied by parents. Certainly not something you’d imagine these days. Being aged 9 for the ‘Love Bug’ sounds a little more feasible.

Does anyone else recall the ‘PG Tips Roadshow’ coming to the Sterling? This was a promotional show on the stage of the Sterling all about, not surprisingly, PG Tips tea (which our family still tend to drink). It did not show any ‘live’ monkeys, but lots of games and film reels all to promote PG.

Phil Bennett