The Public Hall was built in 1882 for a cost of £3,500 under the proprietorship of The Public Hall Company. This municipal building was used as a court, library, theatre and meeting hall. In 1919, the hall first opened its doors as a cinema with rear projection.
In 1935 The Ritz was turned into a ‘proper’ cinema by Haines Builders, the floor was raked and a balcony created, the cinema could now seat over 500 people in comfort. At this time The Ritz was one of two cinemas in Belper, the other being The Palace at the bottom of King Street, both were owned by the same proprietor, the Morley family. It has been recalled that people were so fond of cinema that they would go to see one film at The Ritz and then catch another straight after at The Palace.
In 1971 the cinema converted from one large auditorium to a smaller two-screen venue. Star Cinemas took over ownership and following a nationwide trend, converted the stalls into a bingo hall and the balcony into two 75-seat screens. Another change of ownership to Silverline and with national audience cinema attendance figures falling, the cinema went into a steady decline. In October 1991 the last two films were shown, and the doors closed on The Ritz for the last time …
We only have one old photo of The Ritz at the moment, from 1952, year of the coronation, courtesy of Michael Morris (Morris Collection), if you have any more, interior or exterior please get in touch.